Editorial: Senate should pass bill on teen tanning

Last modified: Thursday, March 12, 2015
Last week, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill banning those under the age of 18 from using tanning booths. While the bill has been criticized as unwarranted government intrusion into citizens’ lives, it’s a worthwhile measure that ought to sail through the state Senate and be signed by the governor.

The facts, based on a report released last year by the Office of the Surgeon General, are clear and compelling.

Indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases an individual’s risk of melanoma – a potentially deadly form of skin cancer – by 59 percent. Indoor tanning at any age increases melanoma risk somewhere between 20 and 23 percent. And those who used tanning booths for more than one year had a whopping 61 percent increased risk.

For those who might claim that skin cancer isn’t that serious, consider this: The American Cancer Society predicted that some 76,100 melanoma cases would be found in 2014, and about 9,710 people would die from the cancer. While it’s most common in older adults, melanoma is also frequently seen in younger people – women in particular.

Put bluntly, indoor tanning poses imminent danger to the state’s children.

Limits are already in place. Indoor tanning is banned in the state for those under the age of 14, and those between the ages of 14 and 18 require a parent’s permission to use a tanning booth. These are strong and worthwhile restrictions, but they aren’t enough.

Ultimately, a state has to decide how far it should go to protect its citizens, especially when the risks posed to health are as evident as those posed by tanning booths. There is no good reason for minors to have access to something so dangerous, which is why they’re not allowed to smoke or drink alcohol.

Those who hope for New Hampshire to become some sort of Ayn Rand-ian utopia are understandably dismayed by this law, but legislators have a duty to protect the state’s young people.

Many diseases and illnesses can’t be predicted. Those diagnosed with them have to press forward into an uncertain world. Doctors tell us, though, that skin cancer (and lung cancer, for that matter) can be largely prevented by avoiding ultraviolet radiation (and smoking).

New Hampshire’s lawmakers have the ability to directly improve the health of their state’s residents. They should take it without delay.