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Cure Club seeks support for law banning underage tanning

Cure Club has partnered with Skin of Steel to raise support for a bill in the Illinois legislature that would prohibit minors from using indoor tanning beds.

Although tanning is currently allowed in Illinois with parental permission for minors ages 14 to 17, junior Ellen Hirsch, Cure Club member, believes that many minors don’t realize how damaging tanning beds can be to the skin.

“I think when you’re young it’s easier to get caught up in the idea of tanning and that it’ll make you look better, so I think that once teenagers have matured more, they can make better decisions regarding tanning,” Hirsch said. “It protects teenagers from making the decision to go to tanning beds at all, because I think it’s an unhealthy choice.”

Senior Sachi Ishida, Skin of Steel board member, believes that the frequency of tanning among teenagers should be regulated similarly to underage drinking and smoking laws.

“Just as you can’t drink till you’re 21, you can’t buy cigarettes until you’re 18, […] the same thing sort of should be done for tanning beds,” Ishida said. “Even with supposed parental consent, it’s still taking a huge risk for something that’s really not worth being a shade darker for a few days.”

Ishida said that she has experienced first-hand the devastating effects of skin cancer when her mother, Susan Steel, was diagnosed with stage four Melanoma in 2004.

“Eventually, very like my mom, she decided that the best way she was going to be able to handle her own disease was by educating other people and helping them,” Ishida said.

Two years ago Steel created the Skin of Steel organization, which has since coordinated many awareness-raising events with the Cure Club.  These events are usually scheduled around special occasions like spring break or prom, so people might choose to keep their skin safe by not going to a tanning bed, according to Hirsch.

Hirsch recalled an important event last year was when Cure Club set up a table with information for students about the tanning bed legislation with a petition they could sign to support it.

“I think that our table really got a lot of people talking, so whether they signed the petition or not, we did our job because we raised awareness about tanning or at least caused some people to think twice about it,” Hirsch said.

To gain support for the bill, Ishida has shown the petition to many local politicians.  According to Ishida, they love the fact that students are advocating for their health.

“When we have something that’s signed by 300 high school students; it makes them really pay attention,” Ishida said.

Daniel Biss, Illinois House Representative, said that Ishida has worked hard to educate the members of the community and legislators about the serious health risks of tanning.

“As this issue becomes better understood by more community members and elected leaders, we’ll eventually reach a consensus like we have with smoking, and I know that [Ishida’s] diligent work will play a major role in accelerating our arrival to that stage,” Biss said.

As far as alternatives to tanning beds go, spray tanning, tan lotion or any sunless tanners are better for skin, Hirsch explained, but it’s best for people to stick to their natural skin color.

“I think ultimately accepting your ‘true color’ is the best choice because you don’t have to work for it,” Hirsch said. “[A tan] can look unnatural—I think it’s easiest and smartest to accept the skin color you were born with.”

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