This week’s “Bad Bill of the Week” is HB 18. Known as the Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act, HB 18 would ban all North Carolinians under the age of 18 from indoor tanning. Though similar legislation has been tried before, this incarnation of the bill is sponsored by Representatives Mark Hollo (R-Alexander), Jim Fulghum M.D. (R-Wake), D. Craig Horn (R-Union), and Tom Murry (R-Wake).
The bill gets tricky because its stated goal is understandable. After all, North Carolinians should be concerned about the health of the state’s younger generations and whether they will get skin cancer. However, HB 18 goes awry when it cuts the parents out of the overall decision-making process.
In a manner somewhat reminiscent of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s soda ban, HB 18 does not help families make more informed health decisions but instead makes it for them. While the risks associated with indoor tanning are well documented, older teens and their parents are very capable of making decisions without the government serving as their nanny. Quite simply, this is another case of someone in the government trying to get involved in families’ day-to-day health decisions.
As always, the unintended consequences of legislation must also be considered. If teens desperate for a summer tan suddenly find themselves without access to indoor tanning, where will they obviously turn next? Outside. Would the Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act really prevent youth skin cancer at all if it only encouraged teens to get tanned/sunburned outside? Probably not. What’s next? Criminalizing sunburns? Age requirements to legally tan by the pool in your backyard? The General Assembly should just leave the parenting to the parents.
At the end of the day the Youth Skin Cancer Prevention Act ignores the role of family in basic health decisions, assumes the government is better situated than its citizens to decide what is healthy and ignores obvious unintended consequences. This makes HB 18 this week’s “Bad Bill of the Week.”
UPDATE: HB 18 was changed from its original edition that would require minors to show a prescription to access indoor tanning to the current version completely banning all minors from indoor tanning. This article has been updated to reflect the change.