OLR Research Report

August 12, 2009




By: John Kasprak, Senior Attorney

You asked for information on Connecticut's law on use of tanning beds by minors, including background on its adoption as well as the law's enforcement provisions. You are also interested in legislation in other states as well as health concerns associated with tanning beds.


Connecticut requires written permission from a parent or guardian for a person under age 16 to use a tanning facility. Local health departments can enforce this law within their available resources. A tanning facility operator violating this requirement faces a fine of up to $100 which is payable to the local health department. This law was enacted in 2006 as a part of a larger Department of Public Health bill.

To date, 29 states regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors, including at least four states that either newly enacted or further regulated tanning facility use in 2009. Mississippi amended its existing law to specify that a parent's consent was valid for a defined period (12 months) and can be revoked by the parent at any time. Parents must also specify the maximum number of times a minor can use a tanning device in a 12 month period.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency, recently elevated the use of tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category--“carcinogenic to humans.”


State Law

Under Connecticut law, the operator of a tanning facility is subject to a fine of up to $100 for permitting anyone under age 16 to use a tanning device without a parent or guardian's written consent if he knows or should have known the person's age. An operator is the person the facility designates to control its operation and help consumers use the device properly. The fine is payable to the local health department or health district where the device is located. The law permits departments and districts to enforce these provisions within their available resources.

This law applies to tanning devices in tanning facilities, which are defined as any place where a device is used for a fee, membership dues, or other compensation. A tanning device is any equipment that emits radiation used for tanning of the skin, such as a sunlamp, tanning booth, or tanning bed that emits ultraviolet radiation, and includes any accompanying equipment, such as timers or handrails. (PA 06-195, 22; CGS 19a-232).

Legislative History

This legislation originated in 2006 as Raised Bill 447 of the Public Health Committee. A public hearing was held on March 6, 2006. Testifying in support of the bill was Dr. Alicia Zalka, a board-certified dermatologist from Danbury and president of the Connecticut Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery Society. Dr. Zalka emphasized the rise in skin cancers and noted that in women age 25-29, malignant melanoma was the most common type of cancer. She stated that it is “well-established that ultraviolet radiation is one of the aspects and cause of skin cancer….The National Institute of Health, the World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Dermatology have established through careful study that ultraviolet light is a carcinogen.”

Dr. Zalka's testimony continued, “Artificial ultraviolet light is also a carcinogen. Some people have a false sense of security believing that ultraviolet light obtained in an indoor tanning unit is somehow safer than the ultraviolet one receives outdoors, and this is actually false.”

Dr. Zalka and the dermatology society she represented recommended that minors, those age 17 and under, should not be able to receive the services of an indoor tanning unit without parental notification and parental accommodation.

David Boomer represented the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) at the public hearing. The association is a national trade organization representing the manufacturers and suppliers of the equipment involved in indoor tanning. He stated, “The bill before you is the same one as last year. It would require parental notification, parental consent, for someone under 16 in order to tan. Last year, I came here and told you that ITA would support that bill, and I'm here again this year to reiterate that.”

In response to an earlier question from a committee member (Rep. Malone) concerning warnings to consumers, Boomer noted that the Federal Trade Commission requires that tanning equipment include large warning labels.

RB 447 was not favorably reported by the Public Health Committee, but it ultimately passed as part of a lager piece of legislation, “An Act Concerning Revisions to Department of Public Health Statutes,” sSB 317; PA 06-195 ( 22).


Currently, 29 states and four counties regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Recent recommendations from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), state “Policymakers should consider enacting measures, such as prohibiting minors and discouraging young adults from using indoor tanning facilities, to protect the general population from possible additional risk for melanoma.” (See below for information on the WHO report.)

Following are summaries of legislation passed by various states in 2009, as tracked by NCSL. A listing of tanning restrictions for minors in all 29 states is attached.


HB 1920 (Act 707) requires that before a minor under age 18 intially uses a tanning facility, the operator of the facility must witness the signing and dating of a warning statement by the minor's parent or guardian. The warning statement, as specified in statute, warns of the danger of ultraviolet radiation, directs the tanning device user to follow

directions, avoid overexposure, and wear protective eyewear. It also cautions the individual to consult a physician before using sunlamp or tanning equipment if using medications or with a history of skin problems.


SB 90 imposes a total ban on indoor tanning for any minors under age 14, unless it is medically necessary and prescribed by a specified practitioner. It requires minors between the ages of 14 and 17 to submit a consent form, signed by the parent or guardian in the presence of the tanning facility operator, before they are allowed to tan. The bill has passed both the Senate and House, but has not yet been signed by the governor.


SP 137 (LD 395) directs the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to amend the rules for the use of tanning facilities by minors. The rules must prohibit the use of tanning devices for minors under 14 years of age. For minors 14 years of age and older, the rules must:

1. require the tanning facility operator to confirm the identification of the minor and the minor's parent or legal guardian;

2. require the tanning facility to obtain the written consent of the minor's parent or guardian and written acknowledgment by the minor and the parent or guardian that they have read and understood required disclosure information;

3. provide that both written consent and written acknowledgement be executed in the presence of the tanning facility operator;

4. limit the parent's or guardian's written consent to one year and allow revocation of consent at any time; and

5. require the presence of the minor's parent or guardian for minors 14 and 15 years of age.

The department must also amend the rules to provide for an increase in licensing fees for tanning facilities to assist in covering the cost of their regulation.


HB 214 (Chapter No. 447) amends current law by prohibiting the use of tanning facilities by a minor under age 14 unless a parent or guardian signs a written consent form in the presence of the facility operator and remains at the facility while the child uses the device. Minors between ages 14 and 18 may use tanning devices with a parent or guardian's signed written consent. The consent is valid for 12 months and may be revoked by the parent or guardian at any time. The parent or guardian must specify in the consent the maximum number of times a minor may use the device in a 12-month period.

The law also requires the tanning facility to maintain the consent forms and certain records regarding the use of tanning devices by minors.


Tanning beds pose a greater cancer risk than previously believed, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a World Health Organization (WHO) agency. The agency, which has developed the most widely used system for classifying carcinogens, has elevated tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category-- “carcinogenic to humans” (Group 1). Tanning beds had previously been classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans.”

IARC's decision was based on a comprehensive review of current research, which shows tanning bed use raises the risk of melanoma of the skin by 75% when use starts before age 30. The agency also found a link between tanning bed use and risk of melanoma of the eye. The agency's findings were recently published in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology (attached).

Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Much of this exposure comes from the sun, but it also comes from manmade sources such as tanning booths, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2005, WHO recommended that no person under 18 should use a tanning bed. Some tanning beds, according to WHO, have the capacity to emit levels of UV radiation many times stronger than the mid-day summer sun in most countries. Because of the popularity of tanning among young people, both the WHO and the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection recommend that use of indoor tanning be restricted to anyone under age 18.

The American Cancer Society recommends that people avoid tanning beds altogether.