An Ohio lawmaker is currently proposing a bill that would make it illegal for persons under the age of 18 to go to artificially tan without a doctor’s permission. The legislation was proposed because of the health risks that artificial tanning beds present, as high levels of use among young people has demonstrably increased their risk of developing skin cancer. While prudent discretion must be exercised when legislating something such as this to avoid triviality, in light of the potentially serious health hazards posed by artificial tanning to minors, Ohio is justified in restricting this practice to legal adults.
The logic behind this suggested measure is that young teenagers do not posses the forward-looking judgment or self-restraint to make wise choices with regard to artificial tanning. In all but a few cases, tanning is for aesthetic purposes, providing little else in terms of health benefits. Like smoking, many teens are also attracted to tanning for image related reasons, and thus unwisely subject themselves to health risks because of the difficult social pressures of young adulthood.
Notably, under the proposed legislation, a doctor’s permission would be required in order for a minor to tan. This would allow tanning to be used in instances where a doctor has decided that the medical benefits outweigh the costs, for example in some cases of depression. By taking away the option for teens to tan with parental permission, the legislation gains the necessary force behind it to generate compliance and legitimize the societal risks posed by artificial tanning. Moreover, parents may not be aware of the greater health risk that tanning beds present in comparison with the sun.
Ultimately, a thin line must be walked in terms of legislating what is in a person’s best interest. State intrusion into an individual’s life tends not to be desirable and people can usually be counted on to determine their own best interests. However, because the subjects of this proposal are minors and because of the acute health risks posed by powerful tanning beds, The Miami Student editorial board believes this to be a wise policy. In time, perhaps, teenagers may come to build positive self-images through other means.