Tanning is bad for teenagers

“The research is clear: Tanning devices cause cancer.”

That was a comment from Mike Rollo, New Hampshire director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network after our state Senate approved a bill prohibiting the use of indoor tanning beds by persons under the age of 18.

Rollo’s statement left no room for debate. He didn’t say the devices might cause cancer. He said they cause cancer, period.

And we have no reason to doubt him.

So why do people continue to tan? Why to parents allow their children to tan?

Because we refuse to believe the research? Who knows?

But clearly, it’s a bad idea.

The Cancer Society isn’t alone in its concerns about tanning. There is this from the Melanoma Foundation of New England:

“The truth is tanning booths are far more risky than sun exposure. They emit up to 15 times more UV radiation than the sun.”

And this from the Women’s Health website:

“Tanning beds might as well be coffins. Oncologists now believe they are to blame for the alarming spike among young women in lethal melanoma cases – the second most common cancer in adults under 30.”

There’s more and more and more along these lines, of course, while it’s virtually impossible to find any material supportive of tanning.

Of course, when the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed the anti-tanning bill in March, there was at least one voice of unreason, that of state Rep. Jeanine Notter of Merrimack who argued that the bill would take away parental rights and that the dangers of tanning beds are exaggerated, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

NHPR, on its website, quoted her thusly: “If we know better than parents about harmful rays, what’s next?,” Notter asked. “Banning children from going out in the sunshine? Mandate the use of sunscreen? Mandate the taking of vitamin D supplements?”

Well, “we” might not know better than parents but we’d put our money on the American Cancer Society, and the Melanoma Foundation over Rep. Notter and a heck of a lot of parents. Really, how many moms and dads are conversant with the issue of skin cancer?

This is not “Nanny State” stuff. This is the state saying that it has the right to protect children from a lack of knowledge.

But sometimes we need a nanny, because parents either can’t or just won’t take responsibility. A teenager should not be in a tanning booth. Really, no one should be in a tanning booth, but no governing body is ready to take the huge step of banning them any more than we’ve banned cigarettes. The argument, of course, is that thinking, consenting adults have every right to destroy their health. It’s a stupid argument, of course, but even if it weren’t, it wouldn’t trickle down to teenagers, either in the realm of smoking or the realm of tanning.

Kudos to New Hampshire legislators for acting. To Rep. Notter, we can only say, “Oy.”