Alabama dermatologists say one person in the U.S. dies about every hour from skin cancer connected to tanning beds.
After passing a house committee this morning, a new bill makes Alabama one step closer to stopping children from using tanning beds.
Skin cancer survivors like Alison Griffitt of Sylacauga said she never thought tanning could have nearly killed her. "I wouldn't go all the time, it would maybe be for two weeks at a time, and I didn't think it was a big deal," Griffitt said. "Senior year I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, thankfully it was early detection. I had two surgeries and it was removed."
Griffitt was diagnosed with the deadliest form of skin cancer when she was just 17-years old. Now she says she is working to educate other young women about the risks she was never taught about early on.
"You don't hear much about the tanning bed, if I had not been in my Anatomy class, I would have not noticed that spot and I could have died," Griffitt explained sharing how she found unusual moles on her body after learning about skin cancer in school.
Dermatologist Dr. Vera Soong, M.D., with Baptist Princeton Medical Center in Birmingham says the number of incidents are skyrocketting. "It's especially going up in young women and it's directly related to the use of tanning beds," Soong said.
Other dermatologists, health care professionals and survivors across Alabama joined Dr. Soong and Griffitt to propose a ban on tanning for children under the age of 18. The bill also would require tanning bed salons to tell customers about the health risks.
"When [children] are young, and imature we need to protect them just like we protect them from tobacco [risks]," Dr. Soong said.
However, tanning salons in Alabama like Palm Beach Tan say they already have rules in place so that children can not get inside of a tanning bed without parental consent.
"The professional salons are already requiring parental consent for tanners under the age of 16 or 18 before they step into a tanning facility," said Joseph Levy. Levy is the executive director for the International Smart Tan Network, he also serves as a consultant withe the American Suntanning Association who represents Palm Beach Tan, which has 20 locations in Alabama.
"Parents need to be aware of what they're doing and the industry has always supported that," Levy said after speaking in front of the house committee Wednesday morning.
Griffitt said she agrees with Palm Beach's policies to limit children and mandate parental consent up to age 16, but she says not every tanning salon has strict precautions. "I know that coming from a small town, at small town tanning beds, I've seen very very young children get in a tanning bed because it's something that's just not regulated," Griffitt said.
While the American Suntanning Association wants to work with healthcare professionals to find middle ground on the bill, they say the current legislation misrepresents tanning salons' relationship with Ultra Violet (UV) light.
"To say that sunlight is harmful for you and you should therefore avoid sunlight is like saying water causes drowning and therefore humans shouldn't drink wate," Levy said.
Regardless, Griffitt says something needs to be done in Alabama, a state which does not have state laws for tanning bed regulations.
"it's not worth it in the long run, if I had known that I would have been diagnosed with malignant melanoma, than I would have not gotten in the tanning bed," Griffitt said. "I highly discourage it, so if you feel like you need to be tan, please get a spray tan as an alternative," she begged young girls or anyone feeling the pressure to be "tan".
The "Tan Ban" bill still has a ways to go before becoming a law. It passed the House Health Subcommittee Wednesday, and will now move to the full House Health committee before being voted on by the House.