The statistics are becoming too startling to ignore. The Skin Cancer Foundation has described the use of tanning beds as an “alarmingly widespread behavior” with 419,000 new skin cancer cases attributable to indoor tanning each year. Study after study is revealing the same harsh reality; exposing yourself to the UV rays emitted from tanning beds increases your chances of becoming one of those hundreds of thousands of victims by an astonishing 75 percent.
“Indoor tanning is one of the leading causes of skin cancer – particularly in young women,” said Dr. Robyn Mccullem, a dermatologist at JCMG. “Even avoiding sunburns is not enough. When you see that you’ve developed a tan that means your skin has suffered damage. There is no safe tan.”
Given the overwhelming evidence that the use of tanning beds greatly increases the chances of someone acquiring skin cancer, it’s no surprise then that legislative action is underway, including here in Missouri. Tanning with UV rays emitted from tanning beds has gone from being seen as a leisure activity to an urgent public health crisis.
One is reminded of the 1960s when literature about the dangers of smoking finally came to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. To put this into perspective, the Skin Cancer Foundation has also reported that, worldwide, there are more cancer cases due to indoor tanning than there are lung cancer cases attributable to smoking.
Representative Gary Cross, R-Lee’s Summit, put forth HB 1411 during the last legislative session of the Missouri House. This bill would make it illegal for anyone under age 17 without parental consent to use traditional tanning beds that emit UV rays. Tanning facilities who provide services to clients under the age of 17 without a signed parental consent will be culpable and charged a fine of 500 dollars per violation.
The enforcement of this law would be charged to the Department of Health and Senior Services, which will create a standardized consent form for every tanning facility in the state. They would work with local law enforcement who will periodically check tanning facility’s paperwork and respond to complaints that a tanning facility is allowing minors to tan without prior parental consent.
Doctors, dermatologists and child advocate groups have all come out in favor of the bill. There has been bipartisan support in the Missouri House as the bill passed the House by a vote of 98 to 46 in March and is currently in the hands of the Senate.
As was the case with the regulation of tobacco use, legislation to oversee tanning facilities has been difficult to pass and not without its critics. However, pro business groups and tanning salon owners feel that this bill will hurt their businesses and make it difficult to comply with the law because of the dangers of forged signatures. Further, others have said the fines for a violation are too harsh. Many have expressed that 500 dollars for a violation is too steep when a tan costs so little.
In light of the startling skin cancer statistics, it becomes harder to comprehend how we can continue to overlook the very real dangers of tanning in favor of meeting a beauty standard. If we are darkening our skin in the hopes of looking younger and more attractive, this is problematic since tanning causes skin to enter into a stage of premature aging that brings wrinkles and dark spots along with it. The irony of this seems to be lost on the massive number of women (and men) who visit tanning salons, some multiple times in a single week. The business owners who are protesting this law must reconcile that they, like the tobacco companies before them, are turning a profit off of what could be very serious and long-term damage for some users.
As a society, what will it take for the consequences of this issue to finally come to the forefront and inspire a reevaluation of what these unhealthy beauty standards are really doing to us mentally and physically? It is delusional to continue to put ourselves at risk in order to feel more physically attractive when the consequences and risks are so high.
If you want to see how your representative Voted on HB 1411 visit house.mo.gov and click on the journal dated March 13, 2014.