30 years later, woman with cancer warns of teen tanning

30 years later, woman with cancer warns of teen tanning »Play Video
Brigitte Thomas testifies Monday before lawmakers at the state Capitol. She said it took 30 years for the consequences of tanning as a teen to catch up with her. She now has skin cancer.

SALEM, Ore. - A natural tan from the sun can be a rare thing in the Northwest, which is why so many people go to tanning salons. But lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban anyone under 18 from tanning in them.

And if the bill becomes law, teenagers would be banned from tanning beds even if their parents said it was OK.

While some parents might say they should have the right to decide for their own kids, one woman who testified before lawmakers Monday said tanning is so bad parents shouldn’t get a say.

"Twenty-five, 30 years later, her I am (with) scars down my chest, on my back (and) on the side of my stomach," Brigitte Thomas told lawmakers at the Capitol.

Thomas used to be hooked on indoor tanning and said it took 30 years for the consequences to catch up.

"I have had 11 surgeries – three surgeries this month of cutting skin cancer out," she said. "It's scary. I have one more surgery in two months. I started tanning at the age of 15."

Supporters like Thomas say it's so important to flat out ban teenagers from tanning salons, regardless of what parents say, because salons sometimes let them in even without their parent’s permission.

And Thomas would know. She worked at a tanning salon when she was 16.

"We did not go by those rules at 16 years old. We did not do any of the rules," she said.

Joseph Levy came before lawmakers to represent tanning salon owners.

"This is a much more complicated issue than simply saying any sun is damage," he said. "To say any sun is damage is like saying water causes drowning and therefore you shouldn’t drink water."

He also said if teens are banned from salons, they'll just buy at-home products over the Internet and tan, unsupervised, at home.