updated 5/21/2004 11:21:12 AM ET 2004-05-21T15:21:12

A state famous for tanned bodies and year-round sunshine would be the nation’s first to ban teenagers from artificial tanning booths if a bill passed Thursday by the state Assembly becomes law.

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Lawmakers, citing a rise in skin cancer cases in California and across the nation, voted 42-26 to add artificial tanning to teenage no no’s that already include smoking, drinking and buying lottery tickets.

Teens often visit tanning salons before proms, vacations and weddings, say owners of an industry that claims 160,000 employees nationally and $5 billion in annual revenue. California is estimated to have 1,500 tanning salons.

Backers of the bill, including the California Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, blame tanning salons for part of 1 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year in the United States. The group cited 7,400 deaths annually from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

“There is a big difference between going to the beach and a tanning salon,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Joe Nation, a Democrat. “When kids go to the beach they put on sun screen.”

Permission required
The bill passed despite opposition from tanning salons and Republican lawmakers opposed to “meddling” in personal choices.

“If this bill passes it proves there’s no part of somebody’s life this Legislature won’t stick its nose into,” said GOP Assemblyman Ray Haynes.

Heidi Blank, manager of San Diego’s Hollywood Tans, said she thought the bill could “hurt my business somewhat. But what are you going to do? There’s people bigger than me making those decisions.”

She said teenagers account for about 5 percent of her store’s clients.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, requires teenagers to have a doctor or surgeon’s prescription before being allowed to tan indoors.

Along with 26 other states, California already requires permission from parents or a legal guardian for teens 15-18 to use artificial tanning salons. Children 14 and under must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

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