OLYMPIA -- The American Cancer Society got a big boost Wednesday, with news that one of its primary focuses -- a bill banning tanning bed access to minors -- cleared the state Senate.
Senate Bill 6045 passed with a final vote of 40-8 and now heads to the House of Representatives.
Senators Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, and Mike Hewitt, R-Walla-Walla, both voted for the bill, while Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, voted against it.
The bill prohibits anyone under age 18 from using an ultraviolet tanning device, and requires those over 18 to present age-confirming identification. Tanning facilities that violate the rule would be subject to penalties of up to $250.
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The announcement of the bill's passage elicited cheers from those attending an annual Lobby Day event held by the society's Cancer Action Network at the capitol's legislative building.
"This has been years in the making," said Mary McHale, the Cancer Action Network's government relations director for Washington. "The fact that it just passed out of the Senate is huge."
Several of the organization's lobbying advocates were sitting in the Senate gallery as the bill passed, McHale said.
"They were just so excited to see it move through the process," she said.
Jody O'Connor of Kennewick, a community relationship manager for the cancer society, drove to Olympia on Tuesday and spoke with Sen. Brown about the tanning bill prior to Wednesday's vote, she said.
A group of teenagers visiting the capitol told Brown about 90 percent of them favored the tanning bed ban, O'Connor said.
"To hear that directly from the adolescents that we're talking about helping ... I think that holds more clout than anything I could say," O'Connor said.
Mary-Claire King, a professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington best known for discovering two genes of breast cancer, said the legislation's passage was wonderful.
"When you have a cause that makes sense, and you say it often enough, eventually people hear it," King said.
More than 2,400 Washington state citizens will be diagnosed with melanoma this year, according to the cancer society.
The Lobby Day allowed nearly 70 cancer patients, survivors and caregivers to meet with legislators and discuss three major topics: providing funding for the state's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, reducing access to tanning bed facilities, and restoring the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program.
Speakers included Dr. Bob Crittenden, senior health policy advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee, who spoke on the subject of implementing the Affordable Care Act, as well as King, who spoke about the role of cancer prevention.
State Secretary of Health John Wiesman also attended the event, and was presented with a "Let's Campaign to End Smoking" banner by Ashley Arnot, an 8th grader at Broadview-Thomson K-8 School in Seattle.
Tobacco prevention funding is currently the number one priority of the Cancer Action Network, McHale said.
Washington state is receiving $10.5 million from a recent arbitration ruling of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, a settlement resulting from multi-state lawsuits against tobacco companies in order to recover tobacco-related health care costs.
Between tobacco taxes and the settlement, Washington received $732 million in 2012, but none of it went towards the state's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.
The Cancer Action Network would like to see all $10.5 million go towards the prevention program, which helps prevent youth smoking and provides resources for those seeking to quit smoking, McHale said.
-- Tri-City Herald intern Matt Benoit is a Washington State University student: 509-947-9277, firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Matt_Benoit_