Tanning – Bed Operators

The Commonwealth’s tanning laws may be found by clicking here: State Tanning Law.  Authority for the enforcement of the tanning law rests with local jurisdictions; that is, by the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the jurisdiction in which a violation is alleged to have occurred.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) share responsibility for the federal regulation of sunlamps and tanning devices.  The FDA enforces regulations that deal with labeling while the FTC investigates false, misleading, and deceptive advertising claims about the devices.  When these agencies determine that device labels don’t comply with the regulations or that advertisements are not truthful, they may take corrective action.  The FDA may, at its discretion, remove products from the marketplace.

The FDA considers tanning bed owners to be assemblers according to the definition in their regulations.  This means that FDA will ensure that the timers are operational and accurate, and that the lamps are matched with the timer according to the manufacture’s specifications.

The most common questions that tanning facility operators have asked VDH are:

Question: Do I need a license to operate a tanning facility?

Answer: The state does not license tanning bed operators nor does the state have a registration program for the possession of a tanning bed.  Check with your locality’s requirements for obtaining a business license.

Question: Can a minor use my tanning facility?

Answer: Effective July 1, 2007, the owner or his designee shall obtain, every six months, the signature of the parent or legal guardian of a prospective customer who is under the age of 15 and is not emancipated under Virginia law. With respect to minors 15 and older, the tanning law mentions informed consent regarding contract for use of the facility.  In the case where there is a contract with a minor without the parent/guardian’s consent, the contract usually is not valid.  Check with your lawyer. On a related issue, there is a law regarding minors and body piercing/tattooing, see State Code § 18.2-371.3. Tattooing or body piercing of minors.

Question: Will the FDA inspect my tanning device?

Answer: The FDA has the right to inspect a commercial tanning device.  Given their staffing levels, it is unlikely.  However, if the FDA receives a consumer complaint, particularly if there is an injury involved, it is almost a certainty that an FDA inspector will want to evaluate the operation of the tanning device.

Question: What will the FDA inspector look for during his inspection?

Answer: The FDA inspector will check the timer to determine whether it is operable, that is the machine will turn off after the time has elapsed, and ensure that it is accurate according to manufacturer’s specification; the lamp matches the manufacture’s specifications. In other words the ratio of the UVB to UVA for the lamp matches the timer limits for that ratio. Also the tanning bed is inspected to ensure there are no modifications of the tanning bed not authorized by the manufacturer.

Question:  May I allow my clients to come into my facility to use the tanning bed/booth whenever they want to?

Answer: No, you must have an operator available at all times when the tanning bed is in use.  See State LawSection 59.1-310.5 paragraph A.


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