Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Bed of Thorns

And here's a thorny issue for you: "17 states consider requiring minors to get physician's note for tanning beds" or banning them from using them altogether.

It's a real-life example of at least three things discussed in these pages: Very young children are too immature to judge for themselves. If their parents fail to bring them up to be reasonable individuals, somebody else has to. Generally, the government will presume to be that somebody, but governments are just men elected by the very people supposedly too stupid to take care of their own and their own kids' affairs, and the laws governments pass to solve the problem are usually worse than the original problem. Eventually, restricting peoples' liberty by force of law only escalates a vicious circle of violence.

Objectively speaking, tanning is about the dumbest thing you can do, right up there with smoking. Like smoking, it both boosts your cancer risk through the ceiling and makes your skin age prematurely so that your face will implode at age thirty. Look at Pamela Anderson for proof (if you dare risk going blind). I have a pigskin bag just like that one.

In a culture that associates tanned skin not with ugliness, as it should, but with beauty, and where teenagers are subject to and routinely give in to tremendous peer pressure, tanning is a disaster looking for a place to happen. And it finds plenty.

The potential for disaster is compounded by the carefreeness of youth (some would call it irresponsibility). As a teenager, you can't imagine that you'd ever turn thirty, that your face could ever implode, that you could ever get cancer, or that you could ever die. On top of that, scientists claim (and I have no reason to disbelieve them) that UV rays and tobacco smoke wreak even more havoc on a body that isn't fully developed yet.

It's of course supremely ironic that bimbos that boost their market value by looking "hot" through tanning (and "cool" by smoking) achieve the diametrical opposite in the long run. Less than two decades later, these two vicious habits will have prematurely aged them so much that it may be next to impossible for them to get a date, let alone get married (if they are so inclined.) Of course, no teenaged bimbo would ever think that far ahead. Talk about burning both ends of the candle.

Of course, sunlight is necessary for your body to produce vitamin D, which among other things apparently fights some cancers. However, that only requires about a quarter of an hour's worth per day, and no full-body tanning. Besides, you can get vitamin D from pills just as well.

All told, banning tanning sure would seem to make more sense than banning smoking weed. On the other hand, it makes far less sense than banning drunk driving or smoking tobacco, activities which can easily harm innocent bystanders, and not just the bimbo engaging in them.

Ultimately, trying to reason with teens and explaining the consequences of their actions to them would of course be much better than a threat of force. At the end of the day, they have to learn how to think logically, so they might as well learn it now.

True, reason will be lost on very many bimbos. That, however, may be a moot point: A person who in her teens cannot be brought by force of reason to abandon peer pressure and short-term thinking will earn herself a Darwin Award sooner or later anyway.

When the chips (and the sun) are down, nothing short of a change in culture can be truly effective in matters like these. No ban, no reasoning will do much good as long as their peers lead kids to believe that smoking, drinking, or tanned skin is cool. The worst possible consequence of a ban would be a black market for tans like today's black market for drugs and fake IDs.

It would be interesting to make a cost-benefit analysis on a teen tanning ban: How many people would just ignore such a ban? How many would ignore reason but obey a ban and thus be saved? How many of them would put their new lease on life to good use and in the end be grateful for having been "saved from themselves," and how many of them would learn nothing, but just find another way of earning a Darwin Award? And how many would be pushed over the edge by another authoritarian restriction and go postal, and how many would they kill?

And don't forget to take the skin cancer knowledge test. Knowledge is king, man.

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