Banning Tanning: Should the Government be Able to Intervene?

December 4, 2011

Political Theory


Who doesn’t love to have a perfectly bronze tan? I know at least me and the 30 million other people who indoor tan every year do. According to the Skin Care Foundation, out of those 30 million indoor tanners 2.3 million of them are teenagers. That number could potentially be higher, however there is a law in 20 states so far that ban people under the age of 18 from going tanning, and at least 31 states regulate tanning ffacilities to minors.

These states have implemented this policy because sun exposure in childhood and teenage years can be so harmful that policy makers think tanning for minors should be regulated. The percentage of people who are getting the deadly melanoma cancer, the most common form of cancer among young adults ages 25-29, is increasing every year significantly.  By taking preventative measures by banning teenagers from tanning, the hope is that people won’t be getting melanoma cancer even earlier in life.  Also in an article I read, another reason that policy makers believe that tanning should be banned under the age of 18 is because we already don’t sell cancer-causing things to minors. It stated, ”But we don’t sell cigarettes to minors, and indoor tanning is similar — we know it will cause cancer. Not maybe. Not might. It’s going to cause cancer. No one under 18 should be allowed to use those things.” *

So the question becomes, should the government be allowed to ban tanning to people under the age of 18? And should the government be able to tell people what they should do to their body, or should teenagers be able to make their own decision about tanning?

Blue= complete ban on tanning under age 14, Orange= ban on tanning under age 16, Red= restriction under age 18 where a parent has to give permission. Green= restriction under age 16 where a parent has to give permission.

In class we have discussed Tocqueville and how he supported the separation of the state and civil society. I think that in this situation, Tocqueville would agree that making the decision for teenagers about tanning might have crossed the line between state and civil society. Since he believed that there should be a separation between the power of the state and the individual lives, I think that Tocqueville would think that the government stepped over their boundary when making laws about how teenagers should choose to live their lives in regards to tanning. There are many statistics and articles that explain the potential detrimental effects that tanning can cause, and it should be left up to the individual to choose whether they want to tan or not.  When thinking about it, children are allowed to have abortions without parental permission, but yet they aren’t allowed to tan ? I am not sure if that is completely logical. I understand if the law was for younger children, but the government shouldn’t be able to dictate how teenagers choose to live their individual lives and if they should tan or not.

Do you think the government has the right to ban tanning from people ages 18 and younger?  Do you think the government has over stepped their boundaries or do you think that the government has the right to try and prevent melanoma cancer?

* Vitello , Paul. “Skin Cancer Up among Young; Tanning Salons Become Target.” New York Times Aug 14 2006: B.1. ProQuest Newsstand. 1 Dec. 2011

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4 Comments on “Banning Tanning: Should the Government be Able to Intervene?”

  1. ndreynolds864 Says:

    I think the government does have say in this matter because they are trying to protect the people of their state from the threat of cancer. This seems like a good reason for the government to step and restrict minors from attending the tanners. To ban it completely may be a bit much but they should have the ability to set certain regulations. It can be as simple as just having parental consent to attend tanners under a certain age. The separation of state and civil issues would apply here if there wasn’t such a great chance of contracting cancer from this habit. Just like the government has say in the drinking age and the smoking age-they are making regulations that are in the best-interest for the people.

  2. julieele Says:

    I believe that the government does have a right to regulate certain things for the betterment of society and to protect its citizens. With that being said, there is a lot of debate when it comes to what the government can say is right and wrong. People also believe that they should be able to do whatever they want to do with their bodies. This is often the reasoning behind why people believe that prostitution should be made legal. I think that the best way to handle the matter of tanning is to ban it up until the person is of the legal age to make their own choice. By that point, the person should be educated on the matter and understand the risk that they are taking. Tanning does induce cancer but it only harms that person, it does not have a direct effect on others. The government would be acting in the best interest of people that are too young to truly understand the dangerous effects of tanning. I believe that the only way the government can overstep their boundaries in respect to tanning is to create a complete ban on it, which I do not foresee occurring.

  3. finkelbr Says:

    I would have to agree with the government on this one based purely on the current laws that we know and love. As you said, it is illegal for minors to buy ciggarettes due to the known cancer causing effects. If teenagers arent allowed to give themselves lung cancer then why should they be allowed to give themselves skin cancer? I think the only reason this is getting any publicity at all is because of how new it is. We have all known for a long while that you can not buy cigarettes until you are 18 and we all accept it. Tanning, however, has not been regulated for as long and is therefore creating a buzz in the news. In my opinion, smoking a cigarette and exposing your skin to those rays under the tanning bed are the same thing. They both have known side effects that are cancerous and sometimes fatal. One of them is illegal for teenagers and one is almost illegal. I do not see why they would not both be banned for teenagers under the age of 18.

    You use an example of teenagers being able to have an abortion without any consent. I think a fifteen year old that gets rapped and gets pregnant is much different. A rape victim is not quite the same as a seventeen year old getting ready for spring break. I do not think that those are really comparable: tanning and abortions.

    I think the government does have a right to ban tanning for people under the age of eighteen due to its clearly known side effects. They have not overstepped their bounds by doing so and I would hope that I live in a place where my government does care enough to prevent such a horrible thing such as melanoma cancer.

  4. Austin Telling Says:

    I’m usually of the opinion that less government is better, but I find myself agreeing that government is able to intervene and regulate tanning for those under 18. There is precedent of restricting actions deemed harmful for people under the age of 18, so there wouldn’t be much of a legal case against this proposition.

    I personally wouldn’t support such a law, mainly because I still believe that parents know better for their children than government. Also, in our hurting economy, it would only make things worse to take away business from tanning salons.

    I still think the government can pursue this, I just wouldn’t support it.

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