Why Are People Still Tanning?!
I’ve written before about why I don’t tan, and unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that tanning carries with it some pretty serious risks. Still, up to 80 percent of people under 25 are convinced that they look better with a tan, and every single day, more than one million Americans visit tanning salons. As dangerous as natural sun exposure can be, it seems that tanning beds may be even worse. People who have used indoor tanning beds are at a 75% higher risk for melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer.
So why do people take the risk? Because they want to look good. And, according to a new study, they may be addicted. In 2005, scientists showed that many sunbathers met the medical definition of substance abuse disorder. This inspired researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center to dig a little deeper. Their results, which were published over the summer, found that brain scans of frequent tanners showed activity that was similar to the patterns of drug addiction.
The subjects of the study were people who reported tanning at least three times a week, and said that maintaining a tan was important to them. Researchers suspected that the tanners were addicted to the UV light they were exposed to in the tanning beds. So they gave participants a normal tanning experience sometimes, but at other times used a special filter to block out the UV rays. And even though the tanners were unaware of the change, they subconsciously knew that something was off. Participants enjoyed the normal sessions, but after the fake sessions, subjects said that they still felt like they needed to tan. Researchers say that these people really do appear to be addicted to tanning.
And now, if there are similar tanning addicts who are under 18, they’re about to have a problem. Just a few weeks ago, the Governor of California signed a law making the use of tanning beds illegal for all minors. A few states already ban tanning beds for people under 16 or under 14, and now 17 states are considering laws similar to California’s. Many medical organizations and skin cancer advocates say this is a great step, and have voiced support for these laws. But owners of tanning salons worry that this will hurt business and cause people to lose jobs. Most of all, frequent tanners complain that tanning is a choice, and one that they have a right to make.
What do you think? Should people be able to make their own choices about tanning despite its risks? Or is it important to pass these laws in order to protect people, especially teens?