SPRINGFIELD — As a teenager, Kathleen Stegle used tanning beds three to four times a week. She started, she said, because she thought it would help clear up acne.
“I would keep going back, and I did this until I found the melanoma,” said Stegle, 23, a senior at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a cancer survivor.
Stegle spoke Tuesday to a Senate panel in favor of a proposal to ban indoor tanning for teens under 18.
Supporters of the measure are concerned about the connection between exposure to ultraviolet light from indoor tanning beds to skin cancer. Tanning salon owners say they are regulated enough by the state.
Current Illinois law prohibits minors under 14 from tanning, and teens 14 to 17 must get permission from a parent or guardian to be allowed to tan.
“We simply can’t ignore the relationship between indoor tanning and cancer,” said state Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-Evanston, who is sponsoring the measure.
Stephen Stone, dermatologist and former president of the American Academy of Dermatology Association, also testified in favor of the legislation.
“The science is clear,” Stone told members of the Senate Public Health Committee. “A person who has used tanning beds for more than 50 hours, or 100 sessions, or 10 or more years is two-and-a-half times to three times more likely to develop melanoma than a person who has never tanned indoors.”
But tanning salon owners say that if the measure were to become law, it would cut into their business.
Bonnie Hanawalt, owner of Allure Salon and Tanning in Normal, said at least half of customers who tan at her salon are high school students.
“I’m right by the high school,” she said, “And that would totally get the majority of my high school students.”
Hanawalt said tanning salons have to meet adequate state regulation.
Kristi Gibson, general manager of The Sun Room Tanning, said the proposal would have some negative effect on her business, which picks up during prom and homecoming season, but she noted the majority of her tanning clientele are over 18.
The Sun Room Tanning has 14 locations in Illinois, including salons in Bloomington, Normal and Decatur.
As a parent, Gibson said she ought to be given the choice of whether to allow her 14-year-old daughter to tan.
“I don’t think it’s their right to tell me if my daughter or if anyone else’s daughter can tan or not tan,” Gibson said.
Gibson said that if the law were to pass, her business could still offer spray-on tans, which are UV-free, to minors.
A legislative panel endorsed the proposal Tuesday by a vote of 6 to 4. At the beginning of March, a similar proposal failed to win support in a House committee.
The measure now heads to the full Senate for further debate.
The legislation is Senate Bill 1329.