No More Tanning Bed
Over the weekend, The New York Times published a comprehensive article about the hazards of indoor tanning, a truism we have known for decades, but failed to address them. The article cites the stories of several young women who received skin cancer diagnoses in their twenties. Both tragic and hopeful, their circumstances exemplify a public health concern that has been mounting for years.
Salons throughout the nation, particularly concentrated in suburban towns, lure customers with catchy names like ‘Beach Bum Tanning’ and promises of creating a healthy bronzed glow all year round. The winter months often experience a surge in tanners, as any remaining color from the season prior vanishes and unveils the paler skin beneath struggling to breathe. American adolescents continue to flock to these UV infused beds in hopes of achieving a sought after look that runs rampant on magazine covers, celebrity Google searches, and bombards our television screens. Images of artificially bronzed women are prolific in America.
The opposition and large scale campaigns to inform teenagers about the indisputable risks of cigarettes has played a significant role in dissuading younger demographics from smoking — so much so that even CVS has ceased selling tobacco. While increasing awareness about the irrefutable health risks tanning poses would likely engender tangible results, the root of the problem lies in self-image issues and accessibility — it is not uncommon for gym memberships, touting healthier lifestyle regimens, to include tanning bed packages.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence rate of melanoma in women under 40 has risen since the early 1990s. Policymakers have recognized the increasing usage of tanning beds as a public health concern, yet the Obama administration’s 10 percent tax on tanning salons in 2010 has done little to deter young women from UV booths. And the images that flood our feeds and newspaper stands do little to aid the cause while further tainting a woman’s sense of self. Having bronzed skin is yet another feature women of all ages aspire to attain.
Perfection is unattainable, yet young women continue to sacrifice their self-worth and jeopardize their very existences to achieve the “perfect glow.” At the conclusion of the Roaring 20s, a Vogue article asserted, “the 1929 girl must be tanned.” I suppose UV exposure appeared to be less of a threat than the imminent Great Depression. Here we are 86 years later with melanoma on the rise and self-image jumbled by the variety of false images carrying declarative statements on how women should look. Advocates can do their best to inform, and we can hope a change in public opinion will lead to an effective change in regulation.