Legislator wants to limit tanning for teens

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By Calen McKinney

Legislators have filed two bills aimed at keeping Kentucky's youth healthy. But while some say the bills propose good regulations, they also believe parents ought to make them, and not lawmakers.

If passed, teens might not be able to go tanning without a prescription, and could be required to have another vaccine before continuing their public school education.

State Rep. David Watkins, D-Henderson, filed a bill on Jan. 31 that calls for teenagers younger than 18 to not be allowed to use a tanning bed without a medical prescription.

Senate Bill 310 also calls for the repeal of the provision that teens age 14 to 18 can use a tanning bed with parent permission.

Watkins' bill passed the Health & Welfare Committee on Feb. 3 and was given second reading last Friday. It now goes to the Rules Committee for consideration.

State Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville, said he is opposed to SB 310.

"I'm not a big fan of tanning beds, but I believe if a parent allows their child to go, then that's their decision."

Christine Weyman, medical director at Lake Cumberland District Health Department, to which Taylor County Health Department belongs, said tanning beds are harmful, and even more so for younger users.

Tracy Aaron, health promotion and policy director at LCDHD, said cases of melanoma are increasing in young adult females ages 20 to 29.

State Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, says she hasn't heard much discussion about SB 310, because it has yet to pass the full House and likely won't be assigned to one of the committees on which she serves.

Watkins also filed Senate Bill 311 on Jan. 31, which is also geared toward keeping youth healthy and vaccinated against disease.

In SB 311, Watkins asks that a human papillomavirus immunization be required for young girls ages 9 to 16 and young boys ages 10 to 16, before entering sixth grade.

The bill also calls for those students whose parents don't want them to have the HPV vaccine to complete a form to be kept on file.

SB 311 also passed the Health & Welfare Committee on Feb. 3 and was given second reading last Friday. It also awaits at the Rules Committee for consideration.

Carney and Gregory say they also both oppose SB 311, for the same reason.

"I generally think health-related decisions are best left for parents to make without the government being involved," Gregory said.

Peggy A. Tiller, director of nurses at LCDHD, said she believes the HPV vaccine is helpful and can prevent a person from getting cancer. She said she believes parents might be accepting of their children being required to have the HPV vaccine.

"I think schools and parents are becoming aware of the benefit of the vaccine and therefore are more accepting of the vaccine," she said. "We are providing the vaccine in our school program and have seen an increase in participation."

Legislators are past the halfway point of this year's General Assembly session. This week was the last to file new bills for consideration, and the session will continue this month and wrap up in April with two weeks of veto days. The session will end April 15.

Gregory and Carney have said they want to hear from constituents about their thoughts on the bills being proposed.

Carney can be reached at (270) 465-5400 or john.carney@lrc.ky.gov. To contact Gregory, call (800) 372-7181 or email sara.gregory@lrc.ky.gov.