Bill 22: Tanning Industry Failed to See the Light

The Alberta government has done the expected and has just passed new legislation which makes it illegal for minors to use indoor tanning beds.

Bill 22, which would see a tanning business get dinged $500 for providing the service to someone under the age of 18, also levies fines between $2000 and $10,000 if is business is caught targeting minors in advertising.  Also, there’s the standard health warning requirement in tanning salons and ads.

Alberta becomes the second-last province in Canada to introduce some form of regulations on the tanning industry, and proponents are cheering.

Media has run stories which have included the required examples of people enduring worse-case scenarios.  Certainly, using tanning equipment can be dangerous and yes, repeated use by someone who has a high risk factor is not wise.

As someone who was in the tanning business for seven years and operated two successful locations in Edmonton, I fully comprehend that the use of ultraviolet-emitting equipment should only be done by someone who is knowledgeable of the risks.

Everything in moderation.

Now, I’m a pro-business libertarian who absolutely despises government interference.  My initial reaction upon hearing of Bill 22 was to object.  But upon further consideration, this legislation mirrors policy I had in place.  We never allowed minors to purchase a tanning membership, and the rare occasions in which someone under the age of 18 used our facilities were on the expressed recommendations of medical experts (dermatologists, etc.).

In truth, I saw this law coming for years.  While I made it a point to educate myself to the fullest extent regarding UV light, effects on the skin, skin types, etc., I was in the minority.  In the late 1990’s, there was only one provincial tanning association:  the Association des Salons de Bronzage du Qu├ębec, which for a few years I was the only member outside of Quebec.

Eventually other tanning associations were created as the industry felt the heat of public opinion, but as I feared, it came too late.

The reason why governments have gotten involved in the practice of regulating the indoor tanning industry is simply because the industry failed to regulate itself.  Tanning equipment should have been restricted to actual tanning studios, with only industry-trained staff allowed to operate.  You should never have been able to find a tanning bed for use in a hair salon or gym.

Just as there is one 4-star restaurant for every 300 fast-food locations, there is one tanning professional who is serious about knowledge and protecting the health of his or her client for every 300 franchise tanning locations with staff trained only with the skills of using a debit machine and cheek-popping their bubble-gum.

While I abhor the government overseeing an industry full of technical knowledge no one in the government could possibly understand, I resign myself to the fact that, even when based on questionable statistics and outright falsehoods, it was inevitable that Big Brother would step in.


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