On Oct. 9, Gov. Jerry Brown approved Senate Bill 746, which prohibits the use of tanning beds for those under the age of 18. The bill is an important step to decreasing the general use of tanning beds, but in particular decreasing use among minors.
SB 746 was sponsored by the California School of Dermatology and Dermatological Surgery and backed by organizations such as the California Medical Association, Kaiser Permanente and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Tanning beds use lamps that emit ultraviolet radiation, UV rays, to produce a cosmetic tan similar to that of lying outside in the sun. In some high schools, indoor tanning is a part of prom culture, even though many health studies show that the over exposure of UV rays of minors can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
Indoor tanning companies even buy advertisement space inside high school newspapers, offering discounts to students as long as they have a parental consent form. From this, it’s clear teenagers are target customers.
Much like the cigarette industry, the tanning industry claims that the concerns about their product are overblown, or even that their products are actually helpful. They claim that the ability to time the session and control the UV level in the bed gives the person tanning an ability to control their exposure that an outdoor tan will not. However, numerous studies show that indoor tanners are likely to get burned and suffer other skin damage from using the tanning bed.
The concerns are especially strong for minors. The World Health Organization placed tanning beds in its highest cancer risk category, “carcinogenic to humans,” after more than 20 studies found that those who start using tanning beds before the age of 30 are 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Before the bill passed, teenagers were allowed to use tanning beds as long as they brought a signed parental consent form. These parental consent forms did not explain the possible risks of tanning for teenagers.
Preventing teenagers from using tanning beds is similar to keeping them from smoking before they turn 18. Once a person reaches adulthood, they can decide for themselves if the increased risk of skin cancer is worth the benefit of an even tan. Until then, keep teenagers out of tanning beds.