Our Opinion: Teen tanning law signed; health trumps intrusion

News Tribune editorial

Amid the stack of post-session bills awaiting action by Missouri Gov Jay Nixon, he wisely selected the ink pen rather than veto stamp for adolescent tanning bed legislation.

Strictly from a public health perspective, this bill can be construed as a proverbial “no-brainer.”

From a public policy standpoint, however, it trespasses into the issue of government intrusion in parental decisions and business practices.

In this instance, we believe the significant public health benefit easily trumps relatively benign intrusion.

The new law does not ban teens from using tanning beds, but does require consent from a parent or guardian.

Specifically, the law, effective Aug. 28, will require a parent or guardian to visit a tanning facility and sign a consent form each year before the business can allow someone under age 17 to use sunlamps, tanning booths or tanning beds.

In a statement connected with the signing, Nixon said: “Exposure to ultraviolet light from tanning beds puts children and teenagers at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer later in life, and this legislation will bring Missouri in line with the large and growing number of states taking steps to prevent cancer and protect kids.”

Missouri will join more than 30 states that have enacted restrictions on artificial tanning by children, according to the AIM at Melanoma Foundation.

The push for legislation began about seven years ago when doctors began linking melanoma among young adult women with their history of using tanning beds, according to Dr. Lynn Cornelius, chief of dermatology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

“We really wanted to make sure that education was involved with regard to the dangers of tanning bed exposure,” Cornelius said.

Education is what this law is about.

The decision to tan remains with parents, not with government.

All this law does is require them to think about the decision, and its consequences.

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