UPDATE: West Virginia bans indoor tanning by those under 18

Published: Feb. 28, 2017 at 5:29 PM EST
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UPDATE 4/27/17 @ 12:45 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia has outlawed indoor tanning by anyone under 18.

The law approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jim Justice says tanning facility owners face a misdemeanor charge and $100 fine for a first offense.

That rises to a fine ranging from $250 to $500 for a second conviction and $500 to $1,000 for a third.

Under the old law, children younger than 14 were banned from tanning beds in West Virginia businesses. Those 14 to 17 needed parental permission or consent.

Sponsors say medical evidence shows an increased risk of skin cancers from indoor tanning.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 43 states regulate minors' use of tanning facilities, and 15 other states and the District of Columbia ban them for people under 18.

The American Cancer Society released this statement:

“Scientific research leaves no doubt of the association between indoor tanning and skin cancer. Given this, we appreciate the enormous step forward West Virginia’s elected officials have taken toward protecting young people from this dangerous activity. This law is an important step forward for public health in this state.

“There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan, so it is important to guard the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays to reduce the risks of skin cancer. We also know that the earlier a person starts tanning, the greater the risk of getting melanoma and other skin cancers later in life.”

UPDATE 4/15/2017 @ 11 p.m.


Sug Sams of Clendenin spent most of her life in a tanning bed. She says it was not unusual for her to tan two or three times a week, but now, she is paying the cost.

"When I was 18, I started tanning just to make it look good and feel good, and it was just the trend, so everybody did it," she tells WSAZ." I tanned two to three times a week, and sometimes right before vacation every day a week."

Eight years ago, her doctor removed a spot on her face and told her it was cancerous. That is when her habits and obsession with tanning changed drastically.

''That was my last time ever laying in a tanning bed, and that was eight years ago. And the pain is excruciating. Nobody knows the pain until they have to go through it,'' Sams says. ''The doctor says 90 percent of my cancer cells stem from the tanning bed abuse. From the time I was about 18 until I was 47, I tanned in the tanning bed.''

She recalls warnings from family and friends when she was younger that she never took seriously. ''They said 'you're gonna die of cancer,' and I always joked 'at least I'll look good'.''

She counts dozens of surgeries to have cancerous spots removed, at least sixty or seventy of them on her body and face.

Just a few weeks before sitting down with WSAZ, she had returned from her latest surgery in Morgantown and decided to go public, posting pictures post-surgery on her Facebook page to show the reality of skin cancer. The pictures were shared hundreds of times across the country.

Sams says she has never experienced anything more painful than having the cancerous spots removed, and she wants her post and her message through speaking out to warn young people who tan or are thinking about it of the very real dangers that tanning beds can create.

Cancer research shows the earlier someone starts tanning, the greater their risk is to develop skin cancer.

Sams says she has been fortunate so far, in that she has never developed Melanoma. She has had Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carinoma spots removed. Neither are fatal if caught early enough. They are disfiguring, Sams points out.

She says she is embarrassed to show what skin cancer has done to her, but she is hoping her scars will stop others from facing the same pains and surgeries she says are ''excruciating.''

''A few years back everyone was my age in the waiting room. Now, when you go into the waiting room they're now all in their early twenties,'' she says. ''The tan's not worth it.''

Sams supports the legislation coined the ''tanning bill,'' passed by both the West Virginia House and West Virginia Senate, that would make tanning bed use illegal for anyone under the age of eighteen, as opposed to the current law prohibiting minors under the age of fourteen to use tanning beds.

Sams says Governor Jim Justice's signature on the bill would save children's lives.

''Tans might look good, but boy they're costly in the end,'' says Sams. Even with insurance, she says her surgeries cost her around 500 dollars every couple months. At one point, she says she went through 10,000 dollars of cancer insurance in six months.

Several groups have come out in support of the bill, including the American Cancer Society Action Network.

UPDATE 4/10/17 @ 9:20 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A group looking to protect youth from skin cancer is urging the governor to sign the tanning bed bill.

It would prohibit children under the age of 18 from using a tanning bed.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network says the earlier a person starts tanning, the greater the risk of getting melanoma.

They say research shows using an indoor tanning device before age 35 increases the risk by 59 percent.

If passed by Gov. Jim Justice, the bill would upgrade an existing law that already bans children 14 and under from using tanning beds.

UPDATE 3/28/17 @ 4:20 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A bill making it illegal to use a tanning bed under the age of 18 has passed the West Virginia House of Representatives.

House Bill 2520 was passed by the House Tuesday afternoon.

Under the bill, people would have to show a driver's license or other government identification to use a tanning device.

House Bill 2520 also says any owner of a tanning facility who violates the law will be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $100 for a first offense, between $250-$500 for a second offense and between $500-$1,000 for a third offense.

The bill will now go to the Senate to be voted on.

UPDATE 3/7/17 @ 5:50 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia could become the latest state to pass stricter regulations on tanning bed facilities.

A proposed bill, House Bill 2520, would ban kids under 18 from using tanning beds, citing skin cancer risks, even if those minors get permission from a parent.

"A lot of kids have no idea the risks and I think their parents too have no idea of the risks, said Dr. Amy Vaughan, a dermatologist in Barboursville. "They think it looks good, a tan skin looks thinner, it looks prettier, when in fact, it's actually damaged skin."

If the bill passes, West Virginia would join more than a dozen other states with similar bans.

A vast majority of states, 42 according to the National Conference of State Legislature, regulate the use of tanning beds.

Vaughan says she has been working with other health experts and lawmakers for several years now to cut down on the number of people using UV ray beds.

"In some people, that risk of developing skin cancer can happen with one tan or one sunburn," said Vaughan. "You may only go for vacation or you may only go for that certain dance or recital, but that effect on the skin actually is cumulative. After years and years of this tanning, your risk is quadrupled in some cases. People have tanned since they were 12 or 14 years of age."

She says melanoma, if not caught soon enough, can be deadly. Melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer.

"We're seeing rates comparable to lung cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer," said Vaughan.

A House of Delegates health committee advanced the bill that would strengthen an existing law to a judiciary committee.

Under a 2013 state law, children under the age of 14 are already banned from tanning beds in West Virginia businesses, and those 14 to 17 need parental permission or consent.

The latest bill doesn't apply to tanning beds in homes. It would also require adults to sign a consent form warning about the UV tanning risks.

In Ohio, there is no age ban, but kids under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. From ages 16 to 17, a parent must sign a consent form in person for 90 days, but not for more than 45 visits.

Kentucky does not have an age ban, but those under 14 need a parent present and those 14 to 17 need a parent's permission and also must agree to wear eye protection. That lasts for 12 months.

In fact, Kentucky has a new bill, Senate Bill 164, similar to the one proposed in West Virginia, that was just introduced this session. This bill would ban minors from using tanning beds with the exception of medical use.

"All health care providers want to see this passed," said Vaughan. "Pale is pretty!"

Vaughan says it's important for adults to set a good and healthy example.

"Parents, I think it's a habit for them and so they take that same habit and that same wish to pursue a tan to their children, not knowing or being aware of the risks or sometimes not caring," said Vaughan.

She encourages people to use healthier methods of getting that glow like spray tans and lotions.

There are warning signs of melanoma. Vaughan explained the ABCDE's of checking moles:






She also encourages everyone to schedule regular checkups with a dermatologist.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Citing skin cancer risks, lawmakers in West Virginia are considering joining more than a dozen other states that prohibit children from using tanning facilities.

A House of Delegates health committee on Tuesday advanced the bill that would strengthen an existing law to a judiciary committee.

Under a 2013 state law, children under the age of 14 are already banned from tanning beds in West Virginia businesses, and those 14 to 17 need parental permission or consent.

The latest bill would ban anyone under 18, even if they get parental permission. The bill doesn't apply to tanning beds in homes.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 43 states regulate minors' use of tanning facilities, and 15 states and the District of Columbia ban them outright for people under 18.