Online Program

Legal and regulatory approaches to reduce melanoma from indoor tanning

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mark A. Gottlieb, JD, at Northeastern Univ. School of Law, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Boston, MA
Cara Wilking, JD, Public Health Advocacy Institute, Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) at indoor tanning facilities or from the sun contributes to the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. 20% of high school females engage in indoor tanning. In 2012, a Congressional investigation found that 90% if tanning salons denied risks and 80% conveyed misleading statements about health benefits of indoor tanning to potential young clients with fair skin.

Legal approaches to address tanning salon practices include state and local legislative efforts to restrict tanning to minors or require parental consent.

Federal approaches have focused around how the US Food and Drug Administrations classifies the UV-emitting lamps as medical devices. Currently they are classified as Class I devices, sharing that designation with other low-risk devices such as tongue depressors. In addition, the trade associate of tanning salons, the Indoor Tanning Association, is subject to a consent decree to cease from communicating health claims subsequent to a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission. In late 2012, a new trade association was created to communicate the alleged health benefits of indoor tanning, the American Suntanning Association.

Another state law approach involves consumer protection law. State attorneys general may take action under their consumer protection authority, as has the attorney general of Texas in an action involving allegedly deceptive health claims used in marketing materials by a salon chain in Texas.

Finally, individual or class action litigation focusing on private state consumer protection law claims may create liability for salon operators.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Explain indoor tanning industry practices amenable to legal interventions. Compare legislative, regulatory, and litigation-based approaches.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an attorney and have conducted the consumer protection and other relevant legal and policy research with my co-author with funding through Northeastern University.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.