A proposal to restrict minors' use of tanning facilities in Baltimore County, and assess penalties on those who violate the law, failed Monday by a County Council vote of 2 to 5.
Two councilmen who voted against the measure said it would usurp parents' rights. Current state law allows those under age 18 to get such a tan with parents' permission.
"I struggled with this because the intent is good, but I am not comfortable taking away parental rights," said Councilman John A. Olszewski Sr.
Prompted by a "rise in skin cancer," Councilman Vincent Gardina said the bill he drafted would effectively reduce teens' exposure to ultraviolet rays, which have been linked to skin cancer. The measure would have required that minors under age 18 use tanning devices only with a written prescription from a physician that specifies the nature of the condition that requires UV treatment, and the number of visits and time of exposure for each use.
"It is medically proven that exposure to UV rays causes melanoma," Gardina said. "As elected officials we have a responsibility to help our children and prevent deadly cancer." Councilman Kevin Kamenetz also voted for the bill.
Gardina said he wanted more stringent restrictions than those imposed by the state. Councilman Kenneth Oliver said the state regulation was sufficient.
The Howard County Board of Health approved a similar measure last week, becoming the first jurisdiction in the nation to require a doctor's prescription before teenagers may use tanning facilities.
Lobbyists for the tanning industry as well as owners and employees of local salons addressed the Baltimore County Council last week, detailing what they called the safety and benefits of tanning devices.
The bill would have imposed a $500 fine or 90 days' incarceration on violators.
Voting against the measure, Councilman T. Bryan McIntire said the regulations would have been unenforceable.
Councilman Stephen G. "Sam" Moxley said to Gardina: "I truly believe you put your heart and soul into this bill. We should do whatever we can to protect youth. But we can't regulate parents to be good parents."
The council's chairman, Joseph Bartenfelder, also voted against the Gardina measure.