by Anum Valliani
WEST TEXAS - It's not uncommon for teenagers to hit the tanning salon to add some quick color for a high school dance, sports, or even a vacation. Now if you're under the age of 18, you'll have to find an alternative to get that added color.
19-year-old Courtney Mueller just missed the cutoff.
"I started tanning when my friends told me about it. I guess it's a chain reaction; people see their color and want to do the same thing," Mueller said.
But that was about three years ago.
According to USA Today, just under 30 percent of high school girls use tanning beds. The American Cancer Society says that the deadly skin cancer known as melanoma has increased in white women between 15 and 39 by three percent every year since the early 1990's.
"Skin coloration, using any types of lotions or sprays, I just don't know how safe those are. But if you're going to compare that to ultraviolet light then yes, they would be safe," Dr. Lawrence Voesack with Medical Center Hospital, said.
Additionally, doctors say ultraviolet light whether through a bulb or from the sun, makes no difference to skin.
"I think about it as looking good now. I don't think about later," Mueller said.
The state law passed September first and stores have already put up notices and had to redirect the young customers to their other, legal options.
"They may be upset because they can't do the bed but I think they'll get airbrush or the mystic tanning," Melissa Surgenor, an employee at Midland's Katatonik Tans LLC., said.
But physicians are afraid people could downplay the unknown risks from other tanning methods.
"When you put information out to misinform people and make them believe that something is safe when it's not safe, I think is wrong," Voesack said.
Owner of Katatonik Tans, LLC. in Midland said in a statement that she supports the law 100 percent but, "we can only assume people will be honest about how old they are. Having a signature from each client makes them liable for their information. We are not going to run background checks to make sure they are 18."
She said high school girls made up roughly 10 percent of the business, so she, like other owners, isn't too concerned about how this will affect business but they are happy the state is enforcing tighter regulations.