Online Program

Too little, too late: College women's perceptions of warning labels and legislation in the indoor tanning industry

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Anne Dostart, B.S., Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY
Laurel M. Schwartz, DrPH, MPH, Department of Health Promotion and Administration, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY
Katharine Head, Ph.D., Department of Communication Studies, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN

College age women are the largest consumers of tanning beds. Public health efforts to address indoor tanning are scant, particularly in policy. The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed new warning labels for tanning beds. For warning labels and other tanning policy to be effective, we must understand how this group of tanning bed users perceives proposed policies and warning messages.  


Female tanners aged 18 to 25 were recruited from a Southeastern college during March 2014. Young women with no history of skin cancer who had tanned indoors in the past 12 months were eligible to participate in the study.  Twenty-four participants completed a brief survey and in-depth interviews.  The transcriptions were analyzed by all three authors for patterns and consensus using an iterative process.


Most participants agreed that current warning labels and policies were ineffective.  Most participants indicated that warning labels on tanning beds were overlooked and disregarded.  There was a hypocrisy of reactions to proposed frequency restrictions for adult tanners.  Participants agreed that the restrictions would be helpful, but that they would not want a tanning restriction policy in place.  Finally, participants reacted positively to restrictions for minors but indicated they would dislike the restriction if they were still a minor.


This study explored indoor tanners’ perceptions of indoor tanning regulation and FDA warning messages.  Understanding young women’s perceptions of regulations and warning messages is important in enforcing and promoting healthy behaviors.  These findings can inform future policy and health communication on indoor tanning.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe college-age women’s perceptions of current and proposed FDA warning messages on tanning beds. Compare the perceptions of tanning regulations for minors with the perceptions of tanning regulations for adults. Evaluate the perceived effectiveness of current and proposed FDA warning messages on tanning beds

Keyword(s): College Students, Public Health Policy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to be an abstract author on the content I am responsible for because I am a graduate student in my last semester of my MPH degree. I have spent over one year studying indoor tanning with my research mentor, compiled a review of the current indoor tanning literature, and assisted in interviewing women about their perceptions of tanning legislation and FDA warning labels.
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.