Monday, February 20, 2012

Idaho to Ban Indoor Tanning for Minors

Idaho is making news!!! Of course, we aren't the first state to make this kind of news, but finally Idaho law makers are working diligently on passing a law that would ban indoor tanning bed use for minors. Only ONE state, CA, has passed this law so far, but 18 others including Idaho are now working to get this legislation put into ACTION.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a gentleman named Blake Sampson. He is a fourth year medical student at University of Washington, wanting to specialize in dermatology. His primary goal? Educate the public on the dangers of UV radiation, particularly indoor UV tanning. His interest in dermatology was somewhat formed through his wife, who ironically enough, was an AVID INDOOR TANNER in her youth. In fact, she reports using tanning beds more than 500 times in her life! She has yet to be diagnosed with melanoma fortunately, but as we know, is at a very high risk of developing it in her lifetime.

Anyways, Blake contacted me a couple of weeks ago because he had received our support group flier from a local dermatologist's office (Yay!). He was specifically looking for melanoma survivors to come to the State legislature meeting to testify that either one, tanning bed use can cause melanoma and/or two, how devasting this disease can be. I informed Blake that although I was not a heavy tanning bed user (even a few times puts you at risk though) and that my melanoma was most likely caused by the sun, that I would be MORE than happy to share my story and testify in support of this bill. I also told him that I would see what other melanoma survivors from our Idaho Sol Survivors group would be up to share their stories as well. Lucky for us, 2--Lisa and Robin--agreed to be there too, along with some local dermatologists and other healthcare professionals.

The court date was set for Thursday Feb 16th. What we thought would only be a few of us testifying from the "survivor's point of view", turned into several testimonies from other fellow survivors that came out of the woodworks--all were compelling, emotional, and incredible to hear. I was so touched to hear how similar these other stories were to ours, but ultimately what I felt we related to was the same physical and emotional damage done by this disease, as well as other issues, fears, and worries. There certainly weren't too many dry eyes during those testimonies!

What was equally incredible and compelling were the testimonies from Blake himself (who started it out by sharing his wife's own story, but also tons of research and statistics, specifically relating to Idaho), along with MANY local dermatologists who testified that melanoma in Idaho is now "AN EPIDEMIC". They each talked about how common it is to diagnosis a young person with melanoma now, even a TEENAGER. Or how Idaho is at the top of the list in terms of melanoma diagnosis in the country and Boise itself is #1 for melanoma deaths per capita. Idaho also has some of the highest indoor tanning statistics nationally too--nearly 22% of 14 year olds (yes, 14!) have used indoor tanning beds. The national average for that age group is 8%!!! And nearly 34% of 16 years old in Idaho have used indoor tanning beds. Isn't that crazy?!

Many factors contribute to these statistics, but two things are for certain. One is that this law needs to get passed so that it is illegal for minors (under 18) to use indoor tanning beds. The other thing that is certain is that parents, educators, and the public need to do a MUCH better job educating each other, particularly our YOUTH on the dangers of tanning (indoor and outdoor).

Back to the meeting... Besides the MANY testimonies in favor of this bill which also included a few health educators (high school health teachers), medical board members, and even the American Cancer Society, there were of course, a FEW opposing testimonies. You have your lobbyists that speak to imposing on the freedoms and rights of our citizens. And then you have your lobbyists that work for the Indoor Tanning Association, who basicaly tried to skew the data by saying that melanoma really can't be proven by indoor tanning bed use (bull crap) and that it is more to do with genetics (another false statement). You can imagine the BLOOD BOILING IN THIS ROOM when the people opposing the bill spoke!

When it was finally my turn to speak, I gave a shortened version of my diagnosis and all that I had been through, but also took a strong view about how we need to be doing a better job educating the public and our youth about this disease and the dangers of tanning. It felt EMPOWERING. I probably could've talked for a lot longer, but my 3 minutes was up and I did my best to get my points across. I was so proud of Lisa and Robin too, the other 2 melanoma survivors with me, who also shared their insight and struggles with melanoma.

All in all, it was a good meeting, very intense, but very intriguing. The next step, after Thursday, was to wait through the weekend while the Health and Welfare committee deliberated (really, what was there to deliberate?!) and then meet back together Monday afternoon. Monday (today) they had made their decision and (drum roll please)....UNAMINOUSLY voted YES to pass this Bill and move it to the House as the next step in the legislative process. WAHOO!!!!

This is such GOOD NEWS. I know that it was a combination of all the testimonies, all the facts, all the statistics, and mostly, the people behind passing this bill that made the difference. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to have a part in that, even if it was small, because I know that it will serve a greater purpose and help SAVE LIVES in the end. It was a GOOD DAY.

1 comment:

{amy} said...

Yay for Idaho doing something that EVERY state should do! I bet you did feel so empowered!