Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Colour, Health and Reason: Above the Rule

Recently a flyer came to a friend's home when I was visiting her, alongside a couple of flyers for local stores' discounts and a City Councillor promoting himself to his community. It advertised what it claimed to be a fitness location. Pictures of treadmills. A mention that it had a spa and a tanning bed.

What was that? You misread me? The treadmill, then the tan.

In late 2013, after the Canadian Cancer Society advocated from 2005, the Ontario Government passed a bill banning anyone to let a person below eighteen use a tanning bed for anyone under the age of 18 or to advertise to them. Samely, tanning salons must pose warnings. Anyone looking under twenty-five must be asked for ID before tanning. Anyone tanning must wear protective eyewear. "Artificial tanning lights can emit rays five times stronger than the midday sun" and "20 minutes in a tanning bed is 10 to 12 times more damaging than being exposed to the midday summer sun." I applaud the legislation. Tanning uses artificial UV light (natural UV light coming from the sun) to increase melanin (skin pigment) concentrations in a person. Ultra-violet light can alter one's DNA and potentially build the code to cancer and so UV light increases a person's cancer risk. There is no need for a person below the age of eighteen to expose themselves unnecessarily to light which alters your DNA, potentially creating the code to cancer. When I volunteered at the Canadian Cancer Society in the summer, 10 AM glasses of water accompanied reading the bulletin board in their kitchenette from successful Relays for Life to reading about a melanoma survivor who tanned until she was diagnosed.

At the same time, I worry for what happens to those at or above the age of eighteen. What stops them from using a tanning bed, just as what is there to stop a person above the age of 18 with a piece of ID from buying a bottle of wine? Common sense. Yet you pass billboards of tanned models in Guess clothing, both male and female, the very-light not as frequent and the dark a rarity. Though tanning ads might not be targeted towards youth, they still suggest that tanning is attractive. So-called fitness areas are incorporating them, promoting both the run and the radiation as healthy. Meanwhile in high school, my best school-based education on the risk between UV light and cancer came in Chapter Six in my eleventh-grade Biology textbook accompanied by a picture of a tumour, Grade Eleven Biology being optional to take in the first place.

Why do we still live in a world where we allow others to promote that one skin colour reigns over another? Tanning salons, Cosmopolitan using black models to show trends they called outdated but none to show their accepted trends and Freddie Gray targeted for making eye contact with police? Why is there still the ability in society to promote that your colour is your rank, that one's melanin concentration could have a mathematical relationship with worth? Colour should be beyond calculus.

Furthermore, why should a salon ever promote that a person should gamble their life to change their skin colour?

What do we do about it? Amongst the more-suppressive-more-secretive argument, I feel we must close tanning beds and end their ability to advertise. We must educate those eighteen and above with solid statistics about how tanning can increase the incidence of cancer, that in harm it is more of a cigarette than a candy. We must educate those younger than eighteen to understand the dangers regardless of taking a Science class. (Though with a Science passion I still recommend eleventh-grade Biology.) We must stop promoting modelling agencies and advertisers to make skin colour their marketing strategy. It is time we increase our stance on indoor tanning.

- FA

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