Nonetheless, the $5 billion-a-year tanning industry serves 30 million Americans, about 2.3 million of whom are adolescent boys and girls.
The World Health Organization specifically recommends that minors under the age of 18 not use indoor tanning facilities.
In the United States, tanning machines are federally classified as "Class I" medical devices, the lowest risk designation possible, on par with items such as tongue depressors and bandages. So there are no mandatory national performance standards, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is limited to issuing recommended guidelines. However, the study authors recommend that tanning devices be reclassified to make them subject to regulatory oversight.
California and Vermont have recently implemented under-18 prohibitions, with legislation pending in Maine. New York has restrictions on indoor tanning for those under 17. And 33 states do have some type of regulation on the books, ranging from parental consent requirements to public postings of artificial UV [ultraviolet radiation] risk, mandatory skin assessments and the provision of eye protection. But many argue such regulations are poorly enforced. And 17 states currently have no indoor tanning regulations whatsoever.
Cornelius and her colleagues conducted a phone survey of indoor tanning operators in Missouri, where indoor tanning is unregulated.
In 2007, the team trained two medical students to pose as adolescent tanning customers when calling 243 tanning facilities throughout the state to inquire about operator protocols.
Among the responses, nearly two-thirds of the facilities said they would cater to customers as young as 10, while on average 43 percent said that indoor tanning was perfectly safe.
While 40 percent of the operators said that skin cancer is a risk, 20 percent said that any related risk was eliminated "if the customer takes pre
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