Maryland raises indoor tanning age limit to 18, launches outreach efforts

Gov. Larry Hogan signs a bill increasing the legal age for tanning bed use to 18, set to be enforced Oct. 1.

BALTIMORE — The Maryland Department of Health announced, Monday, July 1, it would begin alerting residents to an increased age limit for the use of indoor tanning devices, set to be enforced Oct. 1.

Under current regulations, minors between the ages of 16 and 18 are required to obtain written consent from a parent or guardian to use the tanning equipment.

With the new law, passed March 1, the age limit will be set at 18 without exceptions, prohibiting youth tanning bed use entirely.

After Oct. 1, tanning facility owners will be required to verify the ages of their patrons and refuse service to anyone under the age of 18.

Devices such as sunlamps, tanning booths and tanning beds are among those set to be restricted from minors.

In a July 1 press release, the MDH said violators of the new law will be subject to penalties and fines.

MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Fran Phillips said the legislation is necessary because the state is “seeing an increase in the annual incidence rates of melanoma.”

“The use of tanning devices is popular among youth, with 7.2% of Maryland high school students reporting indoor tanning in 2016,” Phillips said. “The goal of this new requirement is to protect our youth from the harms of tanning devices.”

The harmful effects of indoor tanning include “skin cancer, premature skin aging, burns and adverse reactions if used with certain medications, foods and cosmetics,” according to the MDH.

MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall called the health risks associated with indoor tanning “considerable” and said “the younger people are when they start, the worse the consequences can be.”

The American Academy of Dermatology reported “using tanning beds before age 35 can increase the risk of melanoma by 59 percent.”

The MDH said it “will spread the word about the new legislation through public messaging, educational outreach and notices to tanning businesses.”

Facility owners and operators will then be “required to post a notice from MDH about the new law.”

The MDH defined a tanning facility as “any location where a tanning device is used for a fee, membership dues or other compensation.”

But the MDH noted the “law does not apply to phototherapy devices used by health care practitioners in the diagnosis or treatment of disease or injury.”

Gov. Larry Hogan signed the tanning bill into law in May, alongside separate legislation that limits tobacco sales to those 21 years or older.

Maryland is one of 17 states and Washington, D.C., to prohibit the use of tanning beds by minors. It’s the 13th state to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21.

Both laws are set to be implemented statewide Oct. 1.

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