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Is tanning over-regulated?

The recent 'tanning mom' controversy has state and local governments cracking down on tanning bed use. Is that fair?

David Zalubowksi/AP/File
The annular solar eclipse is seen as the sun sets behind the Rocky Mountains from downtown Denver late on Sunday, May 20, 2012. French argues that the heavy regulation on tanning salons is a governmental overstep.

In 1845,  Frédéric Bastiat   penned a satirical masterpiece with the long lumbering title of “A PETITION From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, sticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting.”

This faux open letter to the French Parliament told its members that they were on the right track in not worrying about low prices and abundance for customers, but in their concern and protection of the nation’s producers.

Forget theory and principle, and the common man’s well-being, what’s best for the producer must be the parliament’s primary concern.  And of course, from the title, one can figure out that the petition addresses the wholly uncompetitive way the sun provides lighting.

Bastiat is brought to mind by the case of tanning customer Patricia Krentcil of Nutley, New Jersey, who is charged with taking her 5-year-old daughter inside a tanning bed.   Ms. Krentcil is now dubbed the “Tanning Mom,” is the brunt of late night comedy sketches, the subject of a parody action figure and has reportedly been banned from local tanning salons.

New Jersey law prohibits children under the age of 14 to tan in a tanning booth.  Teenagers between 14 and 17 in that state can tan in a booth, but must be accompanied by an adult, which seems like it would be a little crowded.

Of course this whole  brownhaha started when a teacher at the 5-year old’s school was concerned when the child came to school with a sunburn.  The little girl was telling her classmates that she “went tanning with Mommy.”

Upon hearing this, the conscientious teacher swung into action, not by grabbing some Aloe Vera, but by calling the cops to report child endangerment.

“This whole big thing happened, and everyone got involved,” Rick “Tanning husband” Krenteil  said. “It was 85 degrees outside, she got sunburned. That’s it. That’s all that happened.”

Tell that to politicians who have already slapped a 10% tan tax on the industry. reports,

But at the Statehouse today, lawmakers and health experts said they’re now trying to channel Patricia Krentcil’s notoriety into another cause: jump-starting a stalled bill that would ban anyone under 18 from using a tanning salon.

With prom season approaching, [Blair] Horner said he hopes lawmakers will act. “Parents will feel more comfortable saying no if there is a law against it,” he said.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington), sponsor of bill (A21422) said the episode in Nutley “will raise attention among my colleagues … Unfortunately, this is how change comes.”

Chicago pols also want to ban teen tanning.   ”We regulate cigarettes being sold to minors under the age of 18 mainly because they are harmful to our youth. I do not see why this should not be extended to barring minors under the age of 18 from tanning facilities,” 50th Ward Alderman Debra Silverstein said in a news release.

North of the border, Conservative MP James Bezan wants to stop Canadians under the age of 18 from tanning indoors.  Bezan and his wife admit to tanning via a tanning bed in their younger years, but with more and more young Canadians browning up for prom season,  Bezan says, “That is a disturbing fact, and also that melanoma is the number three cancer among women under the age of 30.”

But one wonders if these assorted local politicians are not setting their sights high enough.  Are tanning beds really the biggest bogeyman to eradicate in the concern for melanoma?  Isn’t there a big red ball in the sky throwing off lots of heat and light that damages people’s skin, and not to mention, makes everyone sweat.  That thing that rises in the east and sets in the west.

Assemblyman Conaway, Alderman Silverstein, and MP Bezan, it is the sun that is the real problem.  And short of shutting off the sun’s harmful rays,  the only way to protect our kids is to make it unlawful for any and all children under the age of 18 to be outside exposed to the sun’s rays at any time.   Young people’s delicate skin must be protected and laws must be passed requiring children to stay indoors.

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