2011-10-10

Things That Used to Be Legal

Photo courtesy IslandSunTanningBeds.com
Loyal Stationary Waves reader SM tipped me off to a recent California law passed to protect children from the harmful effects of artificial tanning. (Here's a fun bit of tangential trivia: SM was there when I drank my first can of Red Bull, as described in the last episode of Things That Used to Be Legal.) This new law supercedes the existing California law requiring parental consent be given before a child can use a tanning bed.

It is my belief that every silly paternalistic law that gets placed on the books is the product of some sort of special interest group. But who in their right minds would have a vested interest in placing restrictions on the artificial tanning industry? As The Sacramento Bee reports, "Senate Bill 746, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, was supported by doctors, nurses and the American Cancer Society." 

No word yet as to whether doctors, nurses, and the American Cancer Society have initiated a legal campaign against children getting more than fifteen minutes of sunlight in a day. Of course, we already know what their recommendations are. According to the American Cancer Society, you should limit your exposure to sunlight during "midday," where "midday" is defined to be any time between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Naturally, this recommendation includes a link to the Environmental Protection Agency's website.

It took me a sum total of about 60 seconds to trace California's new law to an existing government agency.

I have never used a tanning bed, but I know people who have. As a child, I spent lots of time outdoors in the sunshine, and I continue to do so as an adult. It is possible that I will get skin cancer some day. Can we conclusively say that if I get skin cancer it will be the result of a lifetime of occasional mild sunburns? I suppose so; where else does one get skin cancer?

It certainly wouldn't be caused by sun screen, moisturizer, and other such cosmetic skin care products, would it? Certainly not, because of course such products already fall under federal regulatory jurisdiction, so there is no reason to enact further legislation at this time.

What about the benefits of tanning? Tanning beds were invented by a German scientist studying the health benefits of ultraviolet light radiation on athletes. Ultraviolet radiation is used in phototherapy treatments for patients with acne and psoriasis. While researching psoriasis in my former life as a pharmaceutical research consultant, I once learned that doctors often recommend that patients take some time off once year, leave their medications at home, and get plenty of summer sunlight. There is also plenty of evidence suggesting that UV light exposure suppresses melatonin and aids in the treatment of depression.

In the State of California - and soon the world over - children will, by law, be barred from receiving such treatments with or without the advice of their health care team. Doubtless, this will result in the eventual classification of tanning beds as a medical device, which will mean big money for medical device manufacturers, doctors, nurses, and the American Cancer Society.

Governments do not engage in this kind of legislation "for our own good." They're not thinking about the children. Governments have a desperate need to be needed. Bureaucrats have power, but almost no status whatsoever. As a result, they cannot help but place us in demeaning situations in which we must beg the powers at be to avail ourselves of modern technologies.

At some point, society may freely choose to stop the insanity. In a few years, however, no one will even remember what life was like before tanning beds were made "illegal." All of this will be a distant memory.

Except, of course, that I will remember, and will have made note of it on my blog.