Sunday, September 27, 2009

Alcohol = Tobacco = Tanning?

From the Baltimore Sun:
"When I was presented with the evidence [by Beilenson], how could I do anything but support our health officer?" Ulman said. He and Beilenson compared the proposed ban to similar regulations that bar alcohol and tobacco use by minors.

I don’t think it makes any amount of sense to compare a ban on teenagers using tanning beds to a ban on teenage tobacco use or teenage drinking.

Tobacco is addictive and a very strong risk factor for cancer, so while I still am of the opinion that parents should raise their children and not the government, a ban on minors using tobacco is at least generally congruent with responsible parenting. Tanning is not addictive and there is no reason that teens cannot use tanning beds in a responsible manner with parental guidance. There are even health benefits associated with tanning, which is conceded in the proposed legislation since those under 18 can use tanning beds with a doctor's note. Therefore, I don’t think that a ban on the teenage use of tanning beds is very similar to a ban on the teenage use of tobacco.

Our society does not just forbid minors from using alcohol, our laws forbid minors and young adults from using alcohol by setting the drinking age at 21. I think it would make much more sense to lower the drinking age to 18, while allowing those under 18 to drink under the supervision of parents. In August of last year, several university presidents lobbied to lower the drinking age to 18 so that students could legally drink on campus without having to drive anywhere. It seems completely absurd to me that an 18 year old can drive a car, serve on a jury and go to war, but that same 18 year old cannot purchase a beer. A drinking age of 21 is just another example of a well intentioned but poorly executed government regulation.

If there is a case to be made for a complete ban on teens using tanning beds even with parental permission, Beilenson and Ulman have yet to make it. Now they are now essentially saying that tobacco and alcohol are already regulated, so we might as well throw tanning beds in the mix, too. Very lame.