Though one wouldn't know it by the snowstorm that clobbered St. James Thursday night and the copious amount of snow that still covers the streets today, it is technically spring--at least from a meteorological perspective. And, this time of year, many people want “color,” either from the sun or from a tanning bed, but numerous states have already enacted legislation banning or restricitng tanning bed usage--especially concering youth.

California, Illinois, Nevada, Texas, Vermont and Oregon ban the use of tanning beds for all minors under 18, and at least 33 states and the District of Columbia regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many other states have restrictions of varying degrees of severity currently working their way through legislatures.

For example, if lawmakers in Louisiana agree to a March 13 proposal backed by the House health care committee, anyone under 18 would be banned from using tanning beds. Additionally, a Missouri bill currently under debate would require anyone under 17 to get their parents’ conset before tanning. In Minnesota, those under 16 need parental permission or consent, and the operator must limit time to manufacturer's maximum exposure recommendation and provide and require eye protection, according to the NCSL.

Steve Chapin, who teaches a health course at St. James High School, admits the topic of tanning isn’t covered as much as it should be.

“Honestly, our discussions are limited on skin cancer,” he said. “It is a short discussion--should be covered deeper--but (we) have not the last few years.”

They do, however, have a disease unit with the eighth and tenth grade health classes where they discuss different causes of cancers that are controllable, he said. In addition, three or four different students have done their health fair projects on skin cancer over the last many years.

“That takes on much more depth than we do in class,” he said. “Student projects have offered alternatives to tanning in order to develop color, (like) lotions, sprays, etc.”

When Sarahi Showalter took over Lord’s & Lady’s and re-opened it in November 2013, she said one of the first questions people asked her was, “Are you keeping the tanning beds?”

“(The previous owner) offered tanning before, and it was popular,” Showalter said. “There’s a big demand for it.”

Showalter has kept the two beds, and business has been brisk this winter, she said. “I’ve been swamped, especially in January and February, but even now so many girls are coming in (to get color) for prom--it’s very, very busy.”

She added that customers represent a wide age base, from teenagers to people in their 80s. And, though more than half the tanners are female, “you’d be surprised how many gentlemen come in to tan.”

Tanners express numerous reasons for using the booths, she said. Some are readying for prom, or spring break, or weddings. Others came to get color before heading on a winter vacation to sunnier, southern locales, while still others are coming in to keep their color achieved on those vacations until the sun begins to burn again in southern Minnesota.

Showalter recently replaced the bulbs on both machines, and she offers four packages--each of them shareable. It’s five dollars plus tax for one session, $20.99 plus tax for five sessions, $39.99 plus tax for 10 sessions, and $68.99 plus tax for 20 sessions.

Grassroots Salon has one bed, and they’ve offered tanning since opening about a decade ago, said Erica Geiger. Tanners also must fill out a registration card before getting into the booth. The card lists warnings and asks questions relating to the person’s health, and they must sign it. Also, on the back, the tanners agrees he or she has read and understood the warning and written statement, agreed to use protecive eyewear, understood that some people not suscpetible to tanning under natural sunlight may also not be susceptible to tanning under natural light, and has not used a tanning device within the past 24 hours.

Geiger said people of all ages use the tanning service, and, though, “It comes in waves,” business remains pretty consistent--with spikes in winter and prom season, and an ebb during the exceptionally hot stretches of summer.

People tan for myriad reasons, including some afflicted with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), she said. SAD can hit people in winter, and the warmth and light of tanning can bring them out of their “winter blues.”

Though the tanners at Grassroots are mostly women, Geiger said men--in her experience--come in for two reasons. Either their wives, fiancees, or girlfriends make them, or they’re hoping tanning will clear up skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema.

One session at Grassroots is four dollars, 11 sessions are $30, and 21 sessions are $50. There is also an unlimted package, which is also $50, but it’s limited to an eight-week period, Geiger said. “(The package you select) just depends on how often you want to tan.”

Anytime Fitness has offered tanning since they opened here in 2007, and Beth Henderson, the gym’s manager, said it’s used daily. It’s a 20-minute bed, they have lotions and eyewear available, and they’ve recently installed new bulbs.

It is available only to gym members, which means it’s accessible 24/7 like the rest of the gym, and tanners have two options, she said. They can do it a la carte, runs $5.83 a session, or unlimited, which runs $17.48 per month and requires a 12-month committment.

Henderson said the tanning is most popular from November-December up until early spring, as people prepare for--and return from--winter vacations in tropical locations, and teenagers ready for prom. Individuals must be 16 or older to tan, and those under 18 must have parental consent.

The full text of this article was published in the March 27 print edition of the St. James Plaindealer.