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Protect the children; State Senate needs to approve legislation barring minors from indoor tanning

Here's what we know for a fact about indoor tanning: It is hugely popular, inherently dangerous and completely unnecessary. In those regards, it is akin to cigarettes and alcohol, which can't be legally purchased by anyone under 18 (21 for alcohol), even with a parent's permission. So, what's the argument about banning indoor tanning for kids? This is something New York should do.

Skin cancers are on the rise, according to the American Cancer Society, partly because of the popularity of tanning salons. Not surprisingly, teenage girls are especially affected.

The law in New York allows minors to use tanning booths with a parent's permission. The Cancer Society is pushing simply to bar minors altogether and, given the risks, it's the right idea. The State Assembly approved a bill that would achieve that goal last year and again this January, but the Senate has refused to act.

Two local senators note that neither the federal government nor most state governments have taken that step, but it's a losing argument. Would they move to permit cigarette and alcohol sales to minors if Washington and other states suddenly did? Would they allow 14-year-olds to have driver's licenses or suggest that 16-year-olds be subject to the draft?

It's true that those examples encompass other factors, including addiction, but the fact is that allowing parents to take their children to tanning salons is allowing them to knowingly put their children at increased risk of injury or even death. We don't allow parents to do that to their children in automobiles -- they have to be buckled in -- so why allow it with this?

The reason seems to be the influence of the tanning industry, which has so far fought off this law. And, indeed, it is easy to imagine that the law would have an impact on the industry, given the popularity of indoor tanning among teenagers.

Perhaps there is some way to soften that blow, but the solution by a moral Legislature cannot be to continue to allow children to be put at an increased risk of cancer. What would be the reaction to a parent who gave his child cigarettes or whiskey?

This is a law that will eventually pass. The science is incontrovertible, and the risks too great for a pastime that does nothing but feed a sense of attractiveness. It sometimes take democracies a long time to come to the right conclusion, but they get there eventually. The Senate should move now on this measure and protect children from pointless activities that can cost them dearly.