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Our Opinion: Should government climb in the tanning bed?

News Tribune editorial

Legislative proposals to limit use of tanning beds in Missouri raise intriguing questions about the proper role and scope of government.

A measure sponsored by state Rep. Gary Cross, R-Lee’s Summit, would require people younger than age 17 to have written, in-person parental permission to use a commercial tanning bed.

Another bill, by Jefferson City’s Jay Barnes — also a Republican representative — would ban children under age 6 from using a tanning bed.

“I’d like to hear someone make the case that a tanning bed is an appropriate place for a 5-year-old,” Barnes said.

No practical case is possible, but a philosophical case can be argued on the basis that it is overreach by government.

Is tanning bed use by young people a health issue to be legislated or a lifestyle issue to be handled by parents?

A House panel on health care policy heard testimony Wednesday focusing on the health implications.

“Someone who tans is 75 percent more likely to get melanoma,” said Cross, a cancer survivor and parent of a 24-year-old daughter diagnosed with a pre-cancerous condition.

“This is a deadly, serious thing that can transpire if not discovered and treated,” said the committee chairman, state Rep. Keith Frederick, RRolla.

“Teens are not fully mature and can’t make these informed decisions,” said Katelyn Davis, a medical student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “This bill (by Cross) would allow parents and children to come together and make an informed decision.”

We are sensitive to the health consequences.

But we also are wary about extending the reach of government into the realm where parental guidance and common sense should reign.

Supporters of the measures may contend if parents fail to act, government has a responsibility to regulate.

Detractors may counter that nanny government not only absolves parents of responsibility, it discourages them from practicing it.

We invite our readers, including parents, to share their thoughts. As always, letters are welcome, but we also encourage brief comments sent to editor@newstribune.com.

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