The Dark Side of the Tanning Business

Tanning beds are rapidly joining cigarettes in the “it’s only legal because no one has figured out how to outlaw it” category. Indeed, even their legality is slipping. Jurisdictions from Prince Edward Island to Texas, for example, are banning minors from tanning salons. Not surprisingly, dermatologists are pleased. Indeed, the Canadian Dermatology Association has issued a release, noting that indoor tanning “causes premature aging and… increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.”

Is this a business that should exist at all? Sure, even a potentially-dangerous product can be used safely if used in suitable moderation. But the question here has to be whether moderation is the norm, and whether customers will know what moderation means.

Protecting minors is the regulatory low-hanging fruit. Protecting kids is an easy sell. Tanning beds pose a risk to anyone who uses them, but teens are in particular need of protection. Studies have suggested that younger people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of ultra-violet radiation. And teens, in particular, tend to be both obsessed with appearance and under the sway of a general belief in their own invincibility. And According to the the dermatologists, “tanning before the age of 35 has been associated with a significant increase in the risk of melanoma.”

But beyond the case of minors, shouldn’t we all be free to tan at will? Well, yes and no. Freedom is a good thing, sure. But freedom in the marketplace is predicated on the idea that everyone involved is more or less rational and well-informed. This imposes an obligation on businesspeople to be honest and forthright about risks associated with their products. But tanning salons themselves may be promoting a number of myths that make artificial tanning seem safer than it is.

If you’re only still in business because no one has figured out how to make your product illegal, you should probably consider a new line of business.

1 comment so far

  1. Glen Asaro on

    According to the World health Organization, Tanning before the age of 35 increases risk of melanoma 75% which represents a jump from 2/10 of 1 percent for non users to 3/10 of 1 percent for those who used sunbeds…an increase of 1/10 of 1 percent!! That is the “alarming” statistic the dermatology community is focusing on. And as low as that number is, that report shows that medical phototherapy was responsible for the majority of that risk. And the dermatology community advertises phototherapy as a “safe” service while trying to get tanning beds banned! That report also states, “Epidemiologic studies to date give no consistent evidence that the use of indoor tanning facilities in general is associated with the development of melanoma or skin cancer.” To put that number in perspective, smokers are 2200%! more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not smoke. And they compare tanning beds (1/10 of 1 percent risk) to smoking!!?? We are being brainwashed into this belief that indoor tanning is hurting people. People are going to tan in the sun or at the tanning salon so the focus should be on teaching people how to use UV light without getting sunburn as that is where the danger lies for lighter skin types.


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