Great news out of the Northeast this summer, where both the New York and Rhode Island state legislatures passed bills that prohibit all minors under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning devices. The governors of both states have taken the opportunity to protect youth in their respective states and show their commitment to reducing suffering and death from skin cancer; Governor Raimondo of Rhode Island signed the bill into law on July 6 and New York Governor Cuomo has committed to signing very soon. New York and Rhode Island will then join the 15 other states, along with the District of Columbia, that have adopted comprehensive indoor tanning laws.
Skin cancer is a largely preventable disease, yet continues to be the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the United States. One of the most avoidable risk factors for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Because this risk of developing skin cancer from exposure to UV radiation is cumulative, young people who use indoor tanning facilities are at a particularly high risk of developing cancer during their lifetime. The bills that lawmakers in New York and Rhode Island just approved will restrict all minors under the age of 18 from indoor tanning, without any exceptions, comprehensively protecting young people from this increased risk of skin cancer.
This progress did not come without the dedicated effort of our volunteers. In New York, approximately 130 American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers participated in the Day at the Capitol in Albany, letting their lawmakers know how important it is to protect New York children from the dangers of indoor tanning devices. Their efforts didn’t stop there; volunteers made 75 calls to legislative leadership and continued to email and write to their lawmakers, urging them to recognize the health and safety benefits of the comprehensive bill.
Rhode Islanders also made their voices heard. During their annual Day at the Statehouse, volunteers wore “#NoTeenTanRI” sashes and participated in 45 meetings with legislators to ask for their support on the proposed legislation.
In both states, volunteers and advocates shared personal stories that resonated with lawmakers during the campaigns. Maggie Biggane and Collette Coyne both lost their daughters, Mollie and Collette, far too soon due to melanoma. They bravely shared their stories with New York lawmakers to show how comprehensive legislation is necessary to protect all minors from the dangers of indoor tanning.
Volunteer Courtney Jusino supported the Rhode Island campaign by sharing her own skin cancer journey as a firsthand account of the damaging effects of indoor tanning. Courtney started visiting tanning salons at age 14, believing that getting a “base tan” before a family vacation was safe. It wasn’t until she was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma at age 28 that she realized the true danger and health risks of tanning salons. Courtney testified before the state legislature that banning minors from tanning salons is vital for the health and safety of Rhode Island youth.
I want to thank Maggie, Collette, Courtney, and the hundreds of other ACS CAN New York and Rhode Island volunteers and staff who showed such strong dedication while supporting these campaigns. We commend the lawmakers in each state for recognizing the importance of these bills and are glad that Governors Raimondo and Cuomo have shown commitment to protecting the youth of Rhode Island and New York from the dangers of indoor tanning.