Availability of Tanning Beds on US College Campuses

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Importance: Indoor tanning is widespread among young adults in the United States despite evidence establishing it as a risk factor for skin cancer. The availability of tanning salons on or near college campuses has not been formally evaluated.

Objective: To evaluate the availability of indoor tanning facilities on US college and university campuses (colleges) and in off-campus housing surrounding but not owned by the college.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This observational study sampled the top 125 US colleges and universities listed in US News and World Report. Investigators searched websites of the colleges and nearby housing and contacted them by telephone inquiring about tanning services.

Main Outcomes and Measures: Frequency of indoor tanning facilities on college campus and in off-campus housing facilities, as well as payment options for tanning.

Results: Of the 125 colleges, 48.0% had indoor tanning facilities either on campus or in off-campus housing, and 14.4% of colleges allow campus cash cards to be used to pay for tanning. Indoor tanning was available on campus in 12.0% of colleges and in off-campus housing in 42.4% of colleges. Most off-campus housing facilities with indoor tanning (96%) provide it free to tenants. Midwestern colleges had the highest prevalence of indoor tanning on campus (26.9%), whereas Southern colleges had the highest prevalence of indoor tanning in off-campus housing facilities (67.7%). Presence of on-campus tanning facilities was significantly associated with enrollment (P=.01), region (P=.02), and presence of a school of public health (P=.01) but not private vs public status (P=.18) or presence of a tobacco policy (P=.16). Presence of tanning facilities in off-campus housing was significantly associated with region (P=.002) and private vs public status (P=.01) but not enrollment (P=.38), tobacco policy (P=.80), or presence of a school of public health (P=.69).

Conclusions and Relevance: Reducing the availability of indoor tanning on and around college campuses is an important public health target.