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Supporting Idaho's parents

Dr. Steven Mings, M.D.
March 19, 2013
Idaho Falls Post Register

Any discussion of tanning bed laws should begin with a simple fact: There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. Tanning represents DNA damage and cell mutations, which can lead to skin cancer. Thus, the debate about regulating commercial UV tanning devices is not a trivial policy matter; rather, it's about public health, especially the lives (and deaths) of children, who are increasingly exposing themselves to the risks of skin cancer.

Large numbers of adolescents are frequenting tanning facilities. In Idaho, approximately one-third of all teenage girls are using tanning devices. Melanoma is now the second most common cancer among young adults. The relative risk of melanoma climbs if tanning bed use begins at a young age.

The cultural pressures to present what's wrongly termed "that healthy glow," coupled with a lack of public education and few restrictions on youth tanning, has lead to this epidemic. The dangers are compounded by growing evidence that tanning can be addictive.

Many teens have been led to believe that tanning is healthy; nothing could be further from the truth. Scientists now know that tanning damages skin cells. Tanning beds primarily emit UVA. Although UVA takes longer to burn the skin, it has clearly been shown to prematurely age skin and cause DNA damage. What's more, the UVA in tanning booths is more concentrated and stronger than sunlight.

The Federal Trade Commission reprimanded the tanning industry in 2010 for spreading misinformation. The FTC prohibited the Indoor Tanning Association from claiming that tanning does not increase the risk of skin cancer, that tanning poses no danger, that tanning is approved by the government, or that indoor tanning is safer than tanning outdoors. In fact, the FTC order highlights the illegitimacy of the many claims the industry likes to make.

Decades ago, big tobacco tried to confuse the public about the dangers of smoking through obfuscation and misinformation. Ultimately, public awareness caught up with the medical evidence and today we prohibit the use of tobacco by minors. We do this to protect our children and to support parents whose decisions require societal support in order to be most effective. We have the same obligations regarding indoor tanning and skin cancer.

With HB268 before the Legislature, Idaho's medical professionals -- including the American Academy of Dermatology, the Idaho Medical Association, the Idaho Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians -- simply ask that we support Idaho's parents and protect our youth by banning use of indoor tanning beds for those aged 15 and under and by requiring 16-and 17-year-olds to obtain in-person parental consent before tanning. Contact lawmakers and encourage them to protect our children by supporting this bill.

Mings is an Idaho Falls native and graduate of Skyline High School and the University of Washington medical school. He is past president of the Idaho Dermatology Society, a Clinical Assistant Professor through the University of Washington, and a practicing dermatologist in Boise for over 15 years.

How they voted

The bill banning those 15 and younger from tanning died Monday in the Idaho House of Representatives on a 25-43 vote. Here's how eastern Idaho's legislative delegation voted on HB 268:

Yes: Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace; Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony; Rep. Neal Anderson, R-Blackfoot.

No: Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis; Rep. Doug Hancey, R-Rexburg; Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg; Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls; Rep. Julie Van Orden, R-Pingree; Rep. JoAn Wood, R-Rigby; Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly.

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The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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