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Wisconsin Has Banned Tanning Beds For Teens. Well, Kinda

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Welcome to Sun Blocked, Refinery29’s global call-to-action to wake up to the serious dangers of tanning. No lectures or shaming, we promise. Instead, our goal is to arm you with the facts you need to protect your skin to the best of your ability, because there’s no such thing as safe sun.
Tanning beds are now off-limits for Wisconsin teens. Well, kinda. The state passed legislation on March 22 that now requires 16 and 17 year olds to have written parental permission to use sun beds. (Previously anyone over the age of 16 could tan; there’s no word on how they’ll enforce this new legislation.)
“This is step one in the process of making sure that we protect teenagers,” says Dr. Suzanne McGoey, past president of the Wisconsin Dermatological Society and one of the advocates behind the bill. Originally, in 2022, she and her colleagues had proposed an all-out ban of minors using tanning beds but “when we talked to our local politicians, the appetite for an outright ban really wasn't there,” she says. This bipartisan compromise, she adds, was “to limit the risks associated with young people and tanning and make sure that parents are at least aware and involved in their children's health care decisions. Because going to a tanning bed is a health care decision.”

This is step one in the process of making sure that we protect teenagers.

Dr. Suzanne McGoey, past president of the Wisconsin Dermatological SOCIETY
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States but it’s also one of the most preventable types of cancer. The reality is that just one tanning bed session before the age of 35 can increase your chances of developing melanoma by 75%. I’ll say it louder: ONE TANNING BED SESSION.
Currently, 44 states and the District of Columbia ban or regulate indoor tanning devices for those who are age 18 and under. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone, especially minors, avoid tanning beds altogether. “It’s a proven human carcinogen,” says Dr. Elizabeth Hale, senior-vice president at the Skin Cancer Foundation. “It's good to know Wisconsin's going in the right direction. I think the first step is banning minors. But I really think [tanning beds] should be banned overall.” 
Because despite all the red flags, more and more young people are using tanning beds – just look at your TikTok feed where people are advocating for safe tanning (no such thing!)  and base tans (100% myth). “We are seeing an epidemic of skin cancers in young people,” says Dr. McGoey.
In December 2015, the FDA proposed a rule that would prohibit people under the age of 18 from using tanning beds and require adult users to sign a risk acknowledgement certificate before their first use of a tanning bed and every six months after that. Almost eight years later, the FDA has still not finalized this rule.
In the meantime, millions of people in the U.S. continue to use cancer-causing tanning beds, including thousands of teens. That’s why Refinery29 is partnering with the Skin Cancer Foundation to call on the FDA follow through on banning teen tanning bed use. “The younger you are when you start using it, the increased risk,” says Dr. McGoey.

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