California Teens To Get Skin Cancer The Old-Fashioned Way

Gov. Jerry Brown signs a law banning people under 18 from tanning beds, citing health risks

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California teenagers will have to wait until age 18 to visit tanning salons under a new law signed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown. The state is the first in the nation to ban tanning for teenagers, though others are reportedly considering issuing similar prohibitions. The purpose is to prevent skin cancer, a serious risk with prolonged exposure to UV radiation, health officials say.

So where better to start with a ban than California, where there are, one lawmaker said, more tanning salons than Starbucks or McDonald's restaurants?

And, the fervor for tanning is yet another thing we can blame on Katy Perry:

"Girls in affluent California communities especially are surrounded by the message that being tanned all year round is cool," said Christina Clarke, a spokesperson for the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, in a statement. "Pop music star Katy Perry is even singing about it."

(I think interest in sun-kissed skin slightly predates Miss Perry.)

Shouldn't tanning salons be permitted to care for their young customers' well-being on their own? TIME reports that the answer to that may well be, No.

Left to their own devices, tanning salons aren't likely to keep their youngest customers safe, at least according to a 2009 study sponsored by NCI and published in the Archives of Dermatology. As part of the study, researchers trained female college students to pose as fair-skinned, 15-year-old first-time tanners in phone consultations with 3,600 tanning salons in 50 states. They found that fewer than 11% of the salons adhered to government recommendations on sunlamp exposure, which limits tanning to no more than three sessions in the first week; 71% of the salons said they would allow tanning every day for the first week and many promoted frequent tanning with "unlimited tanning" discount price packages.

Brown signed a number of other health-related laws on Sunday, his deadline to take action. Among them: a ban on the sale of child cups and bottles containing Bisphenol A; a ban on employers refusing to cover maternity care; and a law that will allow minors to receive pre-emptive coverage for sexually transmitted diseases without first seeking consent from their parents.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.