Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

Features

May 23, 2012

Why do young white women risk cancer to be tan?

(Continued)

While at least 33 states regulate tanning bed use for minors, California and Vermont are alone in banning them for those under 18. (New York and New Jersey, meanwhile, appear to be heading in that direction.)

Perhaps then, it is time to treat tanning like tobacco. Tanning salons could be required to display grotesque images of people who have gotten skin cancer, like warnings on cigarette packets. We could increase taxes on tanning salons, as is now de rigueur under the Affordable Care Act, considering it could offset what the CDC estimates as $1.7 billion per year to treat skin cancer and $3.8 billion in annual lost productivity. The higher prices might also dissuade returning customers. And as we do with cigarettes, this ban needs to be implemented across the nation for minors, coupled with a better effort at education.

But we also need to rethink our conception of female beauty, which until the 20th century generally abhorred the tan complexion. Ever since Coco Chanel, fresh from a trip to the French Riviera, famously decreed that “The 1929 girl must be tanned,” the association of tan skin with health and chicness has remained. (Meanwhile in Asia, women are, rather sadly, yearning for fairer complexions, as my colleague Ankita Rao notes). But if we still need a reminder of how ridiculous and truly unhealthy the quest for a trendy glow really is, look no further than Patricia Krentcil, the infamous "tanning mom." 

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