Recent changes next-door and nationwide
The state General Assembly passed legislation in 2008 requiring minors to have a parent or legal guardian sign a form at the tanning salon before they're allowed to use the indoor beds, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
HB 1358's preamble states the law is in the public's interest to protect children from the "harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation through the use of artificial tanning devices."
And the Maryland Indoor Tanning Association agreed that the measure was a necessary one, Robin Eason, the association's president, wrote in a letter to the Times. The association has also created a Code of Conduct that tanning salon owners follow for the tanning of minors that includes wearing protective eye wear and requiring warning statements be read about overexposure.
"We strongly support the Parental Consent Law," Eason, who owns a tanning salon, wrote. "It should be the parent's choice to decide whether their kids can get a tan, not the government."
So, DHMH crafted a consent form, which it began using in 2009.
In November of that same year, one of Carroll's neighbors, Howard County, came up with a historic regulation. It wanted to be the first jurisdiction in the nation to prohibit minors from using tanning beds, according to Howard County Health Officer Maura Rossman.
The Howard County Board of Health approved the measure brought before it by then-Health Officer Peter Beilenson.
"There was really no reason why teens should be be exposed to a carcinogen," Rossman said. "Many counties are not banning [it], but we believe it's the right thing to do to protect our children from skin cancer. It's a preventable death."
Four times a year, the health department performs sting operations, checking to ensure the tanning facilities are in compliance, Rossman said.
An underage teen attempts to purchase a session. If they're not asked to present a valid ID and are allowed entrance to the area with the indoor beds, then the establishment receives a citation. This happens roughly 25 percent of the time, according to Rossman.
A countywide ban hasn't come up in Carroll, according to Larry Leitch, Carroll County Health Department's health officer. And it likely wouldn't pass, he said.
"Our commissioners are, well, you know, are very, very conservative," he said. "They want the government out of people's lives as much as possible."
He's unsure if he'd support a ban himself, although he's in favor of having parents sign a consent form before their child goes tanning.
That's a route many other states have taken, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
California became the first state to ban the use of indoor tanning beds for all individuals younger than 18 years old, a law that went into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Vermont followed suit, passing a law that went into effect last July, according to the NCSL.
New Jersey passed a law prohibiting those younger than 17 from using the beds this year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Others have different bans, such as Delaware, New Hampshire and North Dakota, which prohibit those younger than 14 from using them unless medically necessary, according to NCSL.
While the beds can have deleterious effects in excess, bans shouldn't be enacted because they're just emitting ultraviolet rays - similar to the sun, Overstreet said.
"I don't think there's science to back the banning," he said. "If government wants to ban [ultraviolet light] for indoor tanning, they should ban it for Ocean City as well. A teenager is much more likely to get sunburned in Ocean City or overexposed than in an indoor salon."
And there's another problem with prohibiting minors from using the devices: They'll just go outside and tan, where there's no tanning salon employee to tell them time's up, Overstreet said.
"I call it the law of unintended consequences," he said. "The irony of doing something like that is they may be making the problem worse that they're trying to address."