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Texas lawmaker proposes raising tanning bed age to 18

NBCDFW.com / Omar Villafranca

A Texas state lawmaker wants to pass a bill that would make the legal age for using a commercial tanning bed 18.

You have to be 18 to vote, buy a pack of cigarettes or enlist in the military, and a Texas lawmaker wants to add using a tanning bed to the list.

State Rep. John Zerwas has proposed raising the legal age to go into a tanning bed to 18.

Currently, Texans who are younger than 18 but at least 16 and a half years old can tan with a parent's consent. Zerwas' bill would treat tanning like buying a pack a cigarettes -- you must be 18.

The Houston-area lawmaker says his bill would protect young people from future medical issues.

"The evidence is so clear and evident in terms of what the increased risk is for subsequent development of skin cancer, that the bill simply addresses that, under 18, you know, no," he said.

Zerwas said medical experts came to him with the idea for the bill and are now backing the proposed legislation.

"M.D. Anderson [Cancer Center] came to me, and the dermatological society came to me, so there is really a strong consensus around this, at least around the medical community," he said.

The legislation would only affect commercial tanning beds at tanning salons. Zerwas said some tanning salons might fight against the bill.

But not all of them.

Gino Vankuilenburg of Metro Tan in Carrollton told NBC 5 that many of his teen customers now prefer spray-tanning because it's cheaper and faster.

Leslie Lopez, co-owner of The Tan Bar in Dallas said she is seeing an increase in younger customers asking for spray tans.

"I think more kids are becoming more aware of the risks and the results of booths," said Lopez, whose business doesn't offer electric tanning. "Our business has grown since we started."

Lopez said she doesn't offer electric tanning beds to her customers, citing the danger of ultraviolet rays to the skin.

"I think it's long overdue, actually," she said. "We all know what happens to the skin when it goes into a tanning bed -- you could develop melanoma, and people could have prior histories. I just don't think younger [people] should be allowed to do it."