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Md. ignores teen cancer risk

By rejecting state Sen. Jamie Raskin's bill to make tanning-salon ultraviolet ray machines off-limits to minors, the Senate's Finance Committee has put itself at odds with every major national and state medical group to look at the issue, including the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Family Physicians, MedChi (the Maryland State Medical Society) as well as the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield. At the committee's riveting hearing on the bill, oncologists, pediatricians, dermatologists, nurses, plastic surgeons, teenagers and melanoma victims lined up against a handful of lobbyists and tanning salon operators who had no medical witnesses on their side ("An unhealthy glow," Feb. 19).

But most importantly, the Maryland Senate is now in direct conflict with a decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which this past August required all tanning devices to have black box warnings against underage tanning. Apparently, critics of the legislation are concerned that the FDA and health officials are violating a parent's right to choose whether tanning is right for the child. However, during testimony before the committee, three Annapolis High School students testified that Maryland's current parental consent form has nothing to do with a thoughtful weighing in the family of the costs and benefits of minors using a proven melanoma-generating machine. The students testified that if they want to tan, their parents will allow them because the parents are either too exhausted to pay attention or just want to placate their whining child. Moreover, the students testified that their high school peers and most of their parents have no idea how dangerous and carcinogenic tanning machines are.

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In fact, Maryland's current parental consent form only states that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the FDA "recommend" children shouldn't use tanning salon machines, which is incorrect and misleading. Actually, the FDA "warns" children not to use tanning salon tans ever — a far cry from just "recommending" against it. There is also no mention of all the other organizations including the World Health Organization that also warn children never to use tanning machines.

Our neighbors, Delaware and the District of Columbia, along with Illinois and California and many other states, have banned tanning for minors. They follow the FDA and every other medical authority in the nation. The Senate Finance Committee and our current Maryland tanning parental consent form do not. Our state is out of sync with reality.

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Dr. Lawrence J. Green, Rockville

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