Indoor tanning has now been permanently banned in Australia and the Indoor Tanning Association warns that something similar could happen here in the U.S.
As recently published in the February 2014 edition of the American Journal of Public Health, a total ban on commercial tanning beds has been passed in Australia. The country’s government came to this consensus after enacting over the past few years such smaller restrictions as minimum age requirements. As expected, public health concerns – specifically cancer – were cited as justification for the ban, and a comment was made in the article stating that the lack of a strong national association representing indoor tanning was key to the bill’s passing. If there is a proverbial “silver lining” in this situation, the ITA believes that this would be it – that an organization dedicated to protecting people’s right to tan can be instrumental in preventing excessive regulation or even an outright ban on indoor tanning.
The article in the American Journal of Public Health seems to endorse Australia’s decision to ban tanning, according to John Overstreet, ITA Executive Director. “It seems to hold the decision as some sort of benchmark for what other countries should do,” said Overstreet, “but it’s done in a very subtle way. For those of us who have experience fighting these types of political battles, the meaning is obvious.” The second paragraph of the article begins, “The evidence linking artificial tanning beds to melanoma is now unequivocal,” and further states that an increased risk of melanoma associated with early tanning bed use was 59 percent for people whose first exposure to artificial ultraviolet radiation in a tanning unit occurred before 35 years of age. Those rates increase, the article states, with the number of tanning sessions the person has each year. “That states their position quite clearly,” Overstreet added, “even though they’re using flimsy science to make that claim.”
The report states that Australia led up to its 2014 total tanning ban gradually, with regulation aimed at constraining tanning unit usage. The article states that “incremental change can be an effective pathway to securing substantial public health reforms,” and cites Australia’s 2010 regulations banning people with Skin Type 1 from tanning indoors, as well as minors under the age of 18. In November 2010, New South Wales’ labor government proposed to tighten restrictions further by banning tanning for anyone under 30 with Skin Type 2, which was passed in August 2011. In February 2012, Cancer Council NSW called for a complete ban on commercial tanning units and the state’s new, conservative government announced its intention to follow through with that plan. Last year, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia announced a total ban on commercial tanning at the end of 2014, and the other states followed suit. Australia is not the first country to enact an outright ban on tanning for cosmetic purposes – lawmakers in Brazil passed its total tanning ban in 2009.
Overstreet says what was done in Australia should sound familiar to anyone who’s followed what’s been going on here. “In no uncertain terms,” he commented, “our detractors are laying out their battle plans in front of us. This is the blueprint for how they’ve been going about banning people’s right to tan through what they call ‘incremental change’ until they build up enough support to ban it outright.” For more than a decade, the ITA and concerned tanning professionals have fought anti-tanning legislation at the state and the Federal levels. These victories have likely kept these types of proposals from gaining further ground, but tanning’s detractors have not ceased their efforts. “The Journal report said it best,” Overstreet added, “that a ‘strong collective advocacy body’ for indoor tanning has kept America from going down this same road. This is why we need to keep fighting.”
There is much facing the U.S. indoor tanning industry at the Federal level. Currently, the ITA is monitoring two significant proposals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as a pending issue involving the Center for Disease Control. It’s also continuing to work to repeal the Federal Tan Tax, and if that weren’t enough, under-18 bans continue to be proposed in many states. There is also the very real possibility of under-21 bans being proposed in the near future.
“We encourage everyone who’s not an ITA member to join and get involved,” Overstreet said. “There is strength in numbers and when we all pull together, we can speak as one so our voice is heard in Washington, D.C.” Everyone who wishes to help the ITA’s mission to continue protecting everyone’s right to tan is urged to contact the association.
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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