Granted, tanning bed usage is one of those issues that the federal government leaves to the states to decide, but some states have made their decision. So far, California and Vermont have already passed legislation that severely restricts the use of tanning beds by all minors (under the age of 18).
I don’t doubt that other states will soon follow suit. As you can see from the above map provided courtesy of skincancer.org, the cause is making progress, but we still have a long way to go.
Even more amazingly, efforts are now increasing internationally to discourage and even ban the use of tanning beds. In Australia, the government says its efforts are in response to some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancer represents over 80% of all new annual cases of cancer in Australia, and causes more than 2000 deaths per year.
Sadly, tanning bed use in Australia increased in popularity over the past two decades, especially among people under 30 years of age, despite that country having some of the sunniest beaches the world. Citing the weight of medical evidence on the topic, the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales are banning indoor tanning effective in 2014, and five other Australian states plan to ban them into 2015.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently rates ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning beds as a Group 1 Carcinogen, putting it in the same category as cigarettes and exposure to harmful x-ray radiation. As a result, Brazil became the first country to ban tanning beds in 2009. The United Kingdom, Germany, France and many Canadian provinces also banned indoor tanning beds or severely restricted their use by minors.
The international impetus is clear. I hope the United States as a whole gets the message as well.
If you’re curious about your state’s laws on tanning beds, the National Conference of State Legislatures has a list of each applicable state law concerning tanning bed restrictions (or lack thereof). Meanwhile, protect yourself before the law does: Do not expose yourself to unnecessary ultraviolet radiation by indoor tanning.
While the sun is better for you than tanning booths, it can also still be harmful. As always, I strongly recommend wearing sunblock every day even in the fall and winter.
I will get off my soapbox now!