State of Illinois moves to possibly ban tanning beds

By Leah Stover

Daily Egyptian, Southern Illinois U. via UWIRE

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would completely ban minors from tanning.

The bill, House Bill 1666, says tanning facilities may not permit any person under the age of 18 to use tanning beds, regardless of parental consent. The state tanning law currently allows those ages 14-17 to tan with parental consent.

Hilary Patton, a senior from Carbondale studying marketing, said she started tanning at age 16 to get color for events such as prom.

Despite what she heard regarding the dangers of tanning beds, Patton said she wasn’t cautious until her mother was diagnosed with skin cancer near her eye.

Patton said she was shocked when she found out and took a break from tanning.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, making up nearly half of all cases. As the use of tanning beds has become more popular, rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have risen among young women, the article said.

Charles Clemens, chief of medical staff at the Student Health Center, said the risks behind the use of tanning beds depend on the frequency of use. For those who spend several hours exposed to ultraviolet light, the risk of skin cancer development is higher compared to those who don’t.

Amanda Holthaus said the weeks before spring break tend to be the busiest for the tanning industry.

“They don’t like to be so ghostly pale, I guess, is the nice way of putting it,” said Holthaus, owner of Paradise Island Tanning Salon in Carbondale.

Holthaus said young girls frequently visit her tanning salon and she doesn’t find the behavior risky unless it is abused.

“I grew up with girls years ago who would tan at one business and then go down to the next business and tan again,” Holthaus said. “Even though there’s a questionnaire that asks if you’ve tanned in the past 24 hours, there’s no certainty that people are honest.”

Clemens said risks are lower for those who start tanning later in life because cancer takes years to develop. For those who are severely sunburnt at a younger age, he said the effects will take at least twenty years to evolve into a disease.

“When I was young, you would see little kids running around the neighborhood brown as little berries,” Clemens said. “You would see their hair get bleached white and their skin turn brown at age three and four. Parents thought it looked cute. Now we know that those people probably had terrible looking skin by the time they were in their 20s and 30s.”

A majority of the tanners who come to the salon choose to tan because it makes them feel more self-confident, Holthaus said. She said the interest in tanning doesn’t always stem from the fact that it darkens the skin, but because the experience is relaxing and pleasurable.

During the winter months, Holthaus said some people chose tanning as an alternative to sunlight to boost their vitamin D intake. Those with Seasonal Affective Disorder tan because it makes them happier, she said.

Clemens said other alternative supplements for vitamin D that aren’t harmful exist, including multivitamins.

Clemens said some results of tanning can be less dangerous than cancer. He said it’s common for active tanners to get brown blotches and moles on their body that could offset the attractiveness of the tan itself.

Holthaus said moisturizing with lotion and drinking water can help people avoid harming their skin. She said most harm comes from the fact that people don’t take care of their skin beforehand and don’t expect to have unpleasant tanning results. She said it’s important for tanners to know their limits so they don’t burn. For those who haven’t spent time in a tanning bed before, she said it’s crucial for them to not go full force.

Clemens said the best action is to avoid tanning beds completely.

“I think that everyone should try and protect themselves from the sun whenever possible.” “Wear a good sunblock because there are going to be times when you have no control, and you get burned. When you have a choice, you want to try and protect yourself.”

Holthaus said the entire tanning industry will suffer if the bill is passed. She said many young girls come and tan before prom or vacations, and her business will drastically change if it loses that clientele.

Patton said she has quit artificial tanning almost entirely, a decision that was sparked by her mothers experience. In reaction to her own experiences and those of her friends, Patton said the ban on tanning beds would be beneficial. She said she doesn’t think minors are mature enough to compare the benefits and the risks.

“Most teens are only concerned with the present and not concerned with where their actions could take them,” Patton said. “I believe you should find beauty in your natural skin.”

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