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N.J. bans minors from tanning beds

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Story highlights

  • New Jersey bans those under 17 from using commercial tanning beds
  • Action follows high-profile case in which a grand jury failed to indict a mother
  • California and Vermont also ban indoor tanning by minors

Minors under 17 will be prohibited from using commercial tanning beds in New Jersey, and those under 14 will be banned from spray-tanning procedures in tanning facilities, under a new law signed by Gov. Chris Christie.

In remarks made at the time he signed the bill Monday, Christie noted that New Jersey already banned those under 14 from using tanning facilities.

But, he said, "the new restrictions imposed by this bill followed a single, but breathlessly reported, incident of a parent bringing a minor child into a tanning facility."

In February, a New Jersey grand jury declined to indict a woman accused of child endangerment for allegedly allowing her 5-year-old daughter to use a tanning bed, resulting in leg burns.

Patricia Krentcil was arrested in April 2012 after school officials noticed burns on the girl's legs and reported the injuries. Prosecutors accused her of allowing her daughter inside a stand-up tanning booth at a salon in the northern New Jersey town of Nutley.

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Christie said Monday the child was not permanently injured and the salon was fined by the state Department of Health.

    "Confidence in the current laws, rather than a rush to add new and perhaps unnecessary provisions, would have seemed the appropriate legislative response," the governor said. "Nonetheless, I sign this bill because of the documented and well-understood risks associated with misuse of indoor tanning systems."

    California and Vermont have also banned indoor tanning for minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wisconsin also prohibits indoor tanning for those under age 16. A handful of other states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Oregon, Michigan and Virginia, require parental permission.

    Indoor tanning exposes users to both UV-A and UV-B rays, which cause skin damage and can cause cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indoor tanning can be particularly dangerous for young users; research has shown that those who begin tanning before age 35 have a 75% higher risk of melanoma.

    The American Suntanning Association, however, criticized the new law, saying it would only drive teens to "riskier alternatives like home units and beaches."

    In a statement, the association said it was "disappointed that Gov. Christie and the New Jersey legislature have decided that government should have more of a say in teenagers' lives than their parents," and notes it has "worked diligently to offer a compromise including stricter regulations, more enforcement and fines and greater parental control."