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Why tanning should be banned for teens

Nadia Helal | Fulcrum Contributor

Photo by Justin Labelle

School is right around the corner and what better way to prove you’ve had a sun-filled summer than with a bronzy glow? Upkeeping that tan might prove  difficult in Canada’s cold climate, and some might use artificial means to hold onto their sun-kissed skin. But lying down under the harmful ultraviolet (UV) lamp of a tanning bed shouldn’t be an option for underage people looking to stay brown all year long.

Tanning salons know that people will do almost anything for the perfect bronzed complexion, and they take full advantage of this, targeting youths in an attempt to secure lifelong customers. Salons downplay the negative consequences of tanning to lure young people through advertisements.

Shockingly, there is no age restriction on tanning in Ontario; minors can take to the tanning beds as long as a parent signs a consent form. But this practice isn’t new. Parents have been allowing their teens to roast ever since tanning beds became mainstream in 1979. Then the recent story about the New Jersey mom who brought her six-year-old daughter to a tanning salon surfaced and suddenly it’s become a hot topic.

Sadly, there is a significant number of teenagers under the age of 18 who tan regularly. Tanning is very risky, especially when UV radiation devices have been officially classified as carcinogens. According to Health Canada, excessive exposure to A and B ultraviolet rays increases the risk of skin cancer, causes serious sunburns, and damages the eyes.

Just like cigarette and alcohol companies, and the people promoting most things that are bad for you, tanning salons target youth so they can maximize profits by creating loyal, lifelong clients. Young people tend to be easily swayed by their peers and may fall victim to clever advertisement more so than other age groups. The problem is that tanning is not a narcotic or an addictive substance, so the debate isn’t so black and white.

Currently, Oakville is the first and only municipality in Ontario that has banned teens from tanning. According to the town’s website, the bylaw aims to protect youth from the dangers of artificial tanning.

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton is all for the new law, stating, “it’s important that young people are aware of the risks associated with UV rays and the skin damage caused by the type of radiation used in tanning equipment.”

It’s disturbing that a teen can walk into a tanning salon and get a tan, as long as one of their parents signs a simple waiver. A call to any local tanning company can confirm there is no minimum age requirement. But it seems as if this is starting to change. Bill 74, also known as the Skin Cancer Prevention Act, was introduced in April of this year. If passed, the bill would require tanning salons to adhere to strict marketing and promotion practices, including posting health warnings. A similar bill has already been passed in Quebec, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia.

In addition, an ongoing Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) survey shows an overwhelming majority in favour of a federal law banning underage tanning. There is no doubt that this should and will pass; the only question is, why did it take so long?