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Randolph County Herald Tribune - Chester, IL
  • Amy Gehrt: Blanket bans are a disservice to responsible Americans

  • Hot on the heels of public outcry over “Tanning Mom” Patricia Krentcil, the New Jersey woman accused of putting her 6-year-old daughter into a tanning bed, Chicago lawmakers approved legislation last week that bans anyone under the age of 18 from “fake baking.”

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  • Hot on the heels of public outcry over “Tanning Mom” Patricia Krentcil, the New Jersey woman accused of putting her 6-year-old daughter into a tanning bed, Chicago lawmakers approved legislation last week that bans anyone under the age of 18 from “fake baking.”
    They aren’t alone. California and Vermont already have statewide bans on the books, and a number of other city and state leaders are pushing to outlaw tanning salon use for minors, too.
    For the most part, I agree with their reasoning. According to the Food and Drug Administration, about 2.3 million teens in the U.S. use tanning salons each year — a bit less than 10 percent of the 30 million Americans who tan indoors annually. 
    The FDA says UV exposure damages the skin, regardless of whether it is from natural or artificial sources. Among the possible risks: skin cancer, sunburns, premature aging, eye damage and immune system suppression.  
    Yet, despite the fact that we all know such scary side effects are possible, and how deadly skin cancer can be, many of us still seek that so-called “healthy glow.” 
    I admit I am not immune to its charms, either. As the weather warms up each spring and flowers begin to bloom, my pale limbs start to peek out from short sleeves, skirts and capris. 
    Unfortunately, I am not one of those people who can pull off alabaster skin in the summer months. Instead of being blessed with porcelain skin, my hue is more of the blindingly blue-white pale variety.
    Like millions of others, I have tried virtually every fake tanner under the sun — foams, creams, lotions, tanning butters and towelettes. The latest products don’t turn me orange like earlier self-tanners tended to do, but all do still end up leaving my skin with an unpleasant odor — even after multiple showers. Not to mention the fact that my hands always end up several shades lighter than the rest of my body.
    There is one sunless tanning alternative I have yet to try, however: professional spray tans. Offered at numerous salons and spas around the country, they are fairly pricey — and, therefore, do not fit into my very limited budget. But they may well be the answer for those who can afford it, or those seeking a sun-kissed glow for a special occasion such as a school dance or wedding.
    But while sunless tanning may ensure one’s photoworthiness for the big night, there is one instance that I can think of where a tanning ban for minors can actually backfire and pose a greater risk of harm to one’s skin: a tropical trip. 
    When my brother and I were teenagers, my parents wanted to do something extra-special for what they said could be our last family vacation. So we got passports and booked a trip to the tropics. 
    Page 2 of 2 - Before we left, my parents — knowing how easily their children sunburned, even when using sunscreen — advised us both to build up a bit of a base tan with a couple of visits to the tanning salon. I took their advice; my brother did not. 
    A few short hours after settling into our beach chairs that first day, it was clear the super-strong sunscreen my brother had slathered on so confidently was no match for the sun’s rays. He quickly got out of the sun, but he still ended up with a horrible, painful sunburn that kept him from enjoying the trip as much as he might have otherwise — and likely caused far more damage to his skin than my own skin sustained from a couple of trips to the tanning salon and a week of laying out combined.
    I have never been a frequent visitor of tanning beds, nor will I ever be. But had I not been able to utilize one before my family’s trip, I have no doubt I would have burned as badly as my brother — maybe even worse, as I am even fairer-skinned than he is. 
    And that is the problem I have with one-size-fits-all solutions such as blanket bans on underage tanning or selling soda larger than 16 ounces in size. Yes, those kinds of laws do protect some people from making poor choices. But they also take decisions out of the hands of responsible Americans who can, and should, be given the freedom to determine what is right for themselves.
    City editor Amy Gehrt may be reached at agehrt@pekintimes.com.

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