Earlier this week a British medical journal dealt a potentially catastrophic blow to the fashion sense of junior high and high school kids across Prince Edward Island.
Lancet Oncology released a study indicating that artificial tanning beds and sun lamps have a definite carcinogenic effect on humans. This information prompted the World Health Organization to raise the health warning level for these items to the highest possible category- also occupied by such notably damaging carcinogens as tobacco smoke and hepatitis B- which in turn bolstered the P.E.I. branch of the Canadian Cancer Society's efforts to have the government regulate artificial tanning in a similar fashion to smoking: determining that only those 18 years old and above be allowed to use the devices, irrespective of a guardian's consent.
Though clearly impinging the freedom of youths to some degree, this is certainly the right direction to take. Not only should P.E.I.'s government adopt the proposal, but the rest of the country should embrace it as well.
If artificial tanning shares a direct link to cancer as smoking does- most alarmingly melanoma, in the tanning bed case- it should be dealt with in the same way. Tobacco smoking is regulated as it is because of the harm it does to the individual. The belief is that those under 18 do not possess the requisite faculties to make appropriate decisions when it comes to certain matters that can harm them. Thus, if one must be 18 to buy cigarettes and if artificial tanning has the potential to harm in the same
fashion, then it would be incoherent to leave artificial tanning unregulated or treat it differently.
Some may contend that minors should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding their own bodies, but this in no way discredits the proposed tanning bed regulation so long as smoking remains controlled as it is. Rather, that argument is brought against the very legitimacy of regulating anything capable of harming an individual in this way. Differential regulation of two causes of the same problem, cancer, is merely arbitrary.
It would be irresponsible, while in possession of the knowledge that tanning beds seriously increase one's risk of cancer, for the government not to act in the interest of its citizens and limit the potential abuse of this aesthetic enhancement technique. Now that tanning beds and artificial sun lamps are known to be carcinogenic, they must be regulated. Otherwise, the interdiction on smoking should be lifted and Canadian youth should be free to puff away at will.