It is a formidable task to shut down tanning salons, but it should happen. They are dangerous and increase a person’s chance of getting melanoma by 75%! The tanning bed industry makes billions of dollars and isn’t about to close their doors. It only costs a few thousand dollars to get a profitable salon up and running.
What is even more of an obstacle than closing this dangerous enterprise is changing behavior and the attitude that a tan is attractive. If that happened, the tanning business would lose customers. Legislative efforts, despite strong opposition by tanning association lobbyists, have passed in some states to at least get the 18 and under youth restricted from salon use. Enforcement has been difficult for these laws. Who will enforce them? The police are busy with more serious crime and most health departments don’t even inspect tanning salons to meet basic sanitation measures, which is another scary attribute of these places.
But equally disturbing is anyone can buy a tanning lamp for home use. Did you know that most every college campus has tanning booths in their off campus apartment living and to make matters worse, these tanning booths are not monitored? Then we have our national chain health clubs who offer, who also have tanning booths as part of your ” get healthy” membership deal.
The only way to cut back on the exposure to these lamps is by getting the message through to young women in particular, that tans aren’t attractive but a sign of damaged skin. Do they really want to deal with skin cancer and leather skin as they get older? Do they want to die from melanoma? The answers aren’t easy to this dilemma. Research has shown that teens do respond to peer pressure and the knowledge that they are letting down their parents by doing something dangerous to their health. MIF was the first to initiate the Prom Pledge where youth agreed to not go to tanning salons for prom and in return received a gift certificate to a spa/salon that didn’t have tanning. Parents were required to sign the pledge. That was the piece of our program that seemed most compelling. Parents had no idea that tanning was dangerous and thanked MIF for alerting them. So perhaps the solution is to educate parents. It is one more thing to protect our children from, but far worth the effort.