Tanning beds: Another law won’t work

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 14 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:38 am in
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By The Gazette Editorial Board

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In the midst of a frigid winter, the Iowa Legislature has turned its attention to tanning beds.

Lawmakers are considering a bill, House File 2030, that would prohibit Iowans under age 18 from using tanning beds, while also requiring clear posted warnings about the dangers of their use. Users would also receive a written warning statement.

We sympathize with backers’ intentions. Public health experts and groups, including the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration and others, have issued warnings about the heightened skin cancer risks of using indoor tanning facilities. For young users, the risks of future cancer increase considerably.

According to the WHO, the risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, jumps by 75 percent for people who use tanning beds before the age of 30.

But as with so many things the General Assembly seeks to regulate, with good intentions, we think this is a job for parents. If parents don’t monitor their children, and warn them about the dangers of tanning, we’re skeptical that a law is going to do it for them. For every legislative ban on the books, there are examples of folks finding their way over, around and through.

And unlike laws governing underage drinking and drug abuse, risks associated with tanning do not add up to the immediate public safety or health threat that warrants state action.

Legislation can’t save us from every bad choice. So parents should take the lead, and, thankfully, many already have. Also, tanning salons are free to require that young customers seek parental permission. It’s the responsible thing to do, whether government requires it or not. Iowa’s roughly 1,000 tanning businesses already are state permitted, regulated and inspected

Kids and their parents also need to be thoughtfully educated and informed. Explaining the facts and the risks will lead Iowans to make their own conclusions. And that will be more effective in the long run than another state regulation.

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