April 4, 2013

LePage vetoes bill to ban youth tanning

The sponsor's goal was to protect teen health, but LePage vetoes the effort as 'government run amok.'

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bill that would prohibit anyone younger than 18 from using an indoor tanning booth.

He broke the news Thursday via Twitter. 

"Maine parents can make the right decisions for their families," LePage tweeted. "This is why I have vetoed L.D. 272."

In his official veto message, LePage wrote, "This bill does one thing: It tells Maine parents that Augusta knows better than they do when it comes to their children.

"This is government run amok," he said.

The veto is LePage's second of this session. It's unlikely that lawmakers who support the bill will achieve the two-thirds vote needed to override the veto, given that Republicans were unanimous in opposing the ban.

Under Maine's current law, anyone from the age of 14 to 17 can use a tanning bed with a parent's permission. No one younger than 14 is allowed to use one. State law also requires tanning facilities to disclose the risks of indoor tanning.

L.D. 272 had passed along party lines in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. The Senate approved it 19-16 on Wednesday. The House passed it 82-63 last week.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, D-Bangor. Gratwick, a physician, said in a media statement that he is disappointed that LePage "has put politics before public health."

"There are times when science and medicine should supersede politics. This is one of those times," said Gratwick. He said it is "medically proven that teens who use tanning beds increase their risk of cancer by 75 percent."

"This surely is a public health issue. It is definitely a safety issue. And it's one that we should all stand behind," Gratwick said.

Thirty-three states now regulate the use of indoor tanning beds. Eleven states are contemplating bans for people younger than 18.

Gratwick's bill would make Maine the fifth state to ban indoor tanning by minors.

New York, California and Vermont already have bans. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed legislation Monday to prohibit anyone younger than 17 from using a tanning bed and anyone younger than 14 from getting a spray tan.

New Jersey's law will allow 17-year-olds to use tanning salons if parents or guardians accompany them when they first visit.

Proponents likened the ban to regulations on tobacco and alcohol, saying it is needed to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Some medical experts say that indoor tanning exposes users to a greater intensity of ultraviolet rays, thus increasing the risk of melanoma.

Christie's approval was noted by Democratic lawmakers in Maine, who hoped to persuade Republicans to support the ban.

But Republicans argued that the current law, passed within the past four years, hasn't had enough time to show its effectiveness.

Senate Republicans maintained Wednesday that the bill is a "nanny-state" measure to override parental discretion.

The measure was backed by several groups, including the Maine Medical Association and the American Cancer Society Action Network. During the bill's public hearing, those groups noted that studies have linked tanning bed use to increased UV radiation and melanoma, the second-most common type of cancer among people age 15 to 29, according to the American Cancer Society.

Medical groups testified that indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the risk of skin cancer by 75 percent.

Gordon Smith, a lobbyist for the Maine Medical Association, said Thursday that he was disappointed but not surprised that LePage vetoed the bill.

He said Christie's decision to sign a similar measure in New Jersey had given his organization hope that LePage would consider enacting Maine's bill. 

Smith said his group will revisit the issue.

"Sometimes public health bills take time to pass," he said. "We're very patient."

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

 

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