At least, if you go to East Tennessee State, where doctoral student Katie Baker found that 40 percent of women say their first time in a tanning bed happened with mom in tow. For more details, check out this great MSNBC article by health writer Melissa Dahl.
And it’s actually not just Tennessee and not just happening now. I grew up in Connecticut and can remember, round about 8th grade, when one of my girlfriends started tanning with her mom and older sisters. Her mom was driving us home from school one day and explained to me that it was a critical protective measure, so my friend could “develop a base tan” before she started her summer lifeguarding gig and had to face the real sun. You know, the dangerous one.
And we all nodded solemnly and thought she was being such a good mom.
But let’s not play the mom blame-game, okay? There’s a big fat industry-sponsored reason why so many women remain convinced in the benefits of the “base tan.” Because even though studies show that indoor tanning before the age of 30 will increase your risk of skin cancer by 75 percent, even though the World Health Organization considers the tanning bed as deadly as arsenic or mustard gas, even though New York state is considering a Teen Tan Ban … I just checked the website of the Indoor Tanning Association and learned this:
The tanning process is your skin’s natural way of protecting itself from sunburn and overexposure. Calling a tan “damage to the skin” isn’t telling the whole story. Your skin is designed to tan to protect itself.
In fact, ITA is still endorsing the whole concept of a base tan:
A tan is the body’s natural protection against sunburn. Your skin is designed to tan as a natural body function.
Each year, millions of Americans visit professional indoor tanning facilities in the spring, prior to sun-filled vacations or outdoor summertime activities, to establish what tanners know as a “base tan.” Doing so enables vacationers to gradually increase their exposure to ultraviolet light without burning.
That’s because ITA’s mission is to “teach sunburn prevention to the public:”
In doing so, we believe that we will help to reverse the increased incidence of skin cancer, which is largely the result of misguided behavior that occurred years before the professional tanning industry existed and was organized to teach sunburn prevention.
And here I thought their mission was to make money from indoor tanning salons, when they are actually out to save lives. One tanning-addicted mom at a time.