Printed on: April 01, 2013

Twin Falls Times-News: Banning the bed


"[Tanning]'s just a gimmick. It started because I didn't like wearing movie makeup that melted in the sun, but I've always done it as a joke. I believe that you'll find out in the next few years that the sun is good for you. You should be out in it a couple of hours a day." - George Hamilton

If only George were right. And he isn't alone. According to SkinCancer.org, "One out of three teenagers say they tan because it looks healthy. In fact, in an AAD survey, more than 80 percent of people aged 25 and younger said they looked better with a tan." It is estimated that 2.3 million teens visit a tanning salon at least once a year. Some as young as 8.

In the U.S. alone, over 37 percent of white female adolescents and over 11 percent of white male adolescents between 13 and 19 years old have reported using tanning booths, most for the reasons cited above. And yet, a 2002 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that "Using indoor tanning devices increased the risk of skin cancers - 2.5 times for squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times for basal cell carcinoma - compared with nonusers."

Our youth are particularly at risk... as skincancer.org reports, "The skin of teens is thought to be more vulnerable than adults'. Teens may be especially susceptible to skin cancer because their cells are dividing and changing more rapidly than those of adults." And considering that, statistically, less than half of teenagers typically use sunscreen... that adds up to a dramatically increased risk of the most deadly of skin cancers. George Hamilton's perma-tan notwithstanding. The March issue of the medical journal "Pediatrics" contained a report by Dr. Lynn Anne Cornelius and her colleagues at the Washington University School of Medicine in which she states, "Exposure of any type of any tanning bed elicited at 75 percent increased risk for melanoma."

Because of the inherent dangers of teen tanning, many states have severely restricted the use of tanning beds by teens 13-19 years of age or outright banned them altogether.

Twenty-five states now are considering banning teen tanning, including the Great State of Idaho ... up until this week, that is. Idaho is among the "Seventeen states in this country [that] have absolutely no legislation to protect minors," said Dr. Sophie Balk, attending pediatrician at New York's The Children's Hospital at Montefiore. Even the American Suntanning Association, responding to a recent Missouri study on the dangerous effects of tanning beds, said that it's in favor of new measures like strong parental consent laws.

It is such a cut-and-dried issue that it loudly and urgently begs the question... what in the world were our legislators thinking in killing this legislation?

After suggesting, as one local lawmaker did recently, that a certain segment of our youth are "expendable," and after being deeply embarrassed by the abysmal condition of Idaho education, can we not at least use basic common sense in protecting them from a known killer? We think so. Sorry, George.