West Houston Dermatology

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Tanning Legislation – Has North Carolina’s Gone Too Far?

Any dermatologist will tell you that tanning is flat out bad for your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer – one of the most common forms of cancer.  In fact, 32 of the states in the US have laws regulating the use of tanning beds and booths by youths under the age of 18.  California’s legislature was recently applauded by the American Academy of Dermatology.  However, sometimes government can go too far in its attempts to protect people from themselves.  North Carolina’s legislature is proposing a bill that would require youths under 18 to have parental consent for tanning, but an actual prescription from their physician stating the medical condition that requires “treatment” by tanning.  Skin cancer is a bad thing, and we support efforts to educate youths and their parents about the dangers of tanning – whether that is in a booth, bed or on the beach.  Many feel this law has gone too far citing government substituting individual responsibility for one’s life and choices, as well as where does government regulation in our lives stop.  One physician commentator suggested such a draconian restriction on tanning leads to a slippery slope.  For example, what if government required a prescription before McDonald’s could serve patrons French fries with trans fats?  Or, what if government required a written prescription and medical justification for plastic surgery?  There are many opinions surrounding tanning for those under the age of adulthood.  Almost everyone agrees it’s in everyone’s interest to educate and protect youth, but not everyone agrees on how far government should go in encroaching on individual liberties, even if it’s the liberty to make unhealthy choices.