Massachusetts legislators have initiated a push to make it illegal for teens under the age of 18 to use or operate tanning beds. A bill requiring tanning salon employees and patrons to be 18 or older, An Act Further Regulating Tanning Facilities, was passed without contest in the Massachusetts House last week. Ten states in the US have similar laws already in place, but the current campaign in Massachusetts has been met with some heated debate.
Tanning: A Well-Known Risk
There is no argument against the fact that sunless tanning under high-intensity UV bulbs has been proven to increase the likelihood of certain skin cancers. The risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, increases by 74% when individuals use indoor tanning beds. Studies show that nearly 30% of white female high school students use tanning beds, and 17% use them regularly. According to Senator James Timilty, co-chairman of the public safety committee, much of the UV exposure that leads to skin cancer is incurred in the childhood and teenage years. Diagnoses of melanoma have gone up 200% since 1973.
Requirements of the Tanning Ban
If successful, the Massachusetts tanning ban would require teens between the ages of 16 and 17 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Young adults under the age of 16 will need a “written prescription from a physician” in order to tan—a script not many doctors are likely to ever hand out. The contention surrounding the tanning booth debate centers on what many consider to be an overreach by the “nanny state.”
Under the current state law, teenagers between the ages of 14–17 must present a written copy of parental consent before they are allowed to tan. Adherence to this regulation is predictably inconsistent. Not only can teenagers forge a note from Mom or Dad, but many establishments may not even bother asking for one. If the proposed bill is passed into law, teenagers will need to bring their parents along with them if they want to sun themselves indoors.
Is the Massachusetts Tanning Ban Unfair?
There are those who feel the ban would be an overreach by the state, interfering with a parent’s right to determine what is best for their child. Proprietors of tanning salons have pointed to a potential loss in business as a reason not to pass the new restrictions.
Proponents of the ban claim that banning teens from using tanning beds is a necessary step for ensuring teen health. Is it essential for teens to have access to a luxury service that radically alters their appearance and introduces them to the cosmetic trends of adults? Supporters of the ban believe that setting stricter limits on teen access to tanning is the only responsible option.
What do you think? Do you allow your teenager to use tanning beds? Why or why not? Comment below.