Rep. Jim Fulgham
Rep. Jim Fulgham

Legislation introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly to prohibit children from using indoor tanning beds has been named after a doctor and legislator who supported the bill before passing away from cancer last year.
The Jim Fulghum Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act memorializes the former Republican state representative and neurosurgeon from Wake County who was an early and strong supporter of the tanning bed legislation. The proposal, introduced in the both the state House and Senate, prohibits children under 18 from using indoor tanning beds.
“Part of our family’s healing process includes finding ways to continue to support Jim’s work in the legislature and in the community,” wrote Fulghum’s widow, Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum, in a letter sent to legislators this week. “Toward that end, our family has agreed to allow the North Carolina Dermatology Association, the American Cancer Society and other highly-respected groups to memorialize him in legislation to protect children from the threat of skin cancer caused by indoor tanning beds.”
Senators Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) and Tommy Tucker (R-Union) and representatives Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth) and Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) are the lead sponsors of the legislation.
Meredith also has a personal connection to the dangerous effects of melanoma. His first wife, Michelle, passed away as a result of melanoma skin cancer when she was 24 years old. February marked the 25th anniversary of her death.
“I support this legislation because I have seen, up close, how dangerous melanoma can be,” Meredith said. “I also support the legislation because, like similar laws restricting access to tobacco and alcohol, I believe children deserve protection from risks they are too young to fully understand and parents need the help these laws provide to keep their children safe.”
The introduction of the tanning bed legislation comes on the heels of the U. S. Surgeon General’s national “Call to Action” on skin cancer last year, which included reducing the harm from indoor tanning as a major goal.  According to the report, nearly 5 million people in the U.S. are treated annually for all skin cancers combined, at an annual estimated cost of $8.1 billion. Melanoma is responsible for the most deaths of all skin cancers, with nearly 9,000 Americans dying from it annually.  About $3.3 billion of annual skin cancer treatment costs are attributable to melanoma.

A coalition of North Carolinians supports the legislation, including: the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, North Carolina Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control, North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, North Carolina Dermatology Association, North Carolina Medical Society, North Carolina Oncology Association, North Carolina Pediatric Society and AIM at Melanoma.
In addition, the American Suntanning Association, an industry trade group, and Planet Beach, one of the country’s largest tanning franchises, announced their support for the North Carolina bill last year.

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