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How Does State Regulations Affect Tanning?


30 years ago, our parents didn’t have access to the type of sunscreen we have today. Back then, “suntan lotion,” as it was called, was only available at low SPFs such as four and eight. Skin damage was inevitable. It wasn’t until later years that doctors made the connection between overexposure to the sun and skin cancer. As a result, many in our generation have grown up using sunscreen as a daily staple. Some of us have also grown up with regular visits to tanning salons. Why has tanning become such a prevalent cultural phenomenon, even though we know its dangers?

After reading an article in the New York Times about new tanning laws in Texas, which will ban everyone under the age of 18 from using any indoor tanning facility, I wondered about regulations already in effect. Specifically, I asked myself whether Missouri has any regulations when it comes to tanning.

Texas will accompany other states in banning minors from tanning indoors since this behavior increases the risk of melanoma in those under 18, say experts quoted in the article. Like any other risky behavior, such as drinking, smoking, piercings, tattoos and driving, an age limit needs to be set to prevent teenagers from develop skin cancer early in their adult lives. States are beginning to recognize the role they may play in alleviating the risk of all types of skin cancer.

In the New York Times, Dr. Jeffrey E. Gershenwald, medical director of the Melanoma and Skin Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, indicates that melanoma develops when skin cells are damaged by ultraviolet radiation and turn into malignant tumors. Early stages of the disease are treatable, but can lead to death if allowed to spread.

House bill No. 47 is a piece of legislation in Missouri that would ban minors under the age of 17 from using indoor tanning facilities without written parental consent. The consent would require acknowledgement of the risks of tanning. Though some parents would still agree to their children’s use of tanning salons, they would be more knowledgeable about the danger they are putting their children in.

Over a quarter of our states have tanning regulations in place, and many more are proposing their own laws. Recognizing the dangers of indoor tanning and the severity of the risk of melanoma at any age are the first steps in protecting yourself from the disease.

Tell HC what you think! Should states set age restrictions for tanning like they do for alcohol, cigarettes, piercings and tattoos? Do you think that tanning is as dangerous as these other activities with age restrictions?

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