Should high school students be allowed to use tanning beds in Buffalo Grove? Teens themselves have polarizing views on this topic, which they debated Monday night at Buffalo Grove’s annual Civics Forum.
About two dozen students from Buffalo Grove and Stevenson high schools spent the afternoon researching the subject and presented their findings and recommendations that night to the Village Board.
Illinois law says that tanning salon customers under age 18 must have parental permission before using tanning beds. No one under 14 is allowed to use a tanning bed.
Divided into two groups, half of Buffalo Grove’s Civics Forum participants suggested that the village follow suit. They shared video testimonials from teenage tanning bed users, one of whom said she tanned so much that she bled, and cited studies from organizations such as the American Cancer Society and World Health Organization about the dangers of tanning bed use.
That group urged the village to require businesses to obtain a license for each tanning bed and institute fines or suspend operations for violators.
The students were praised by village officials, who acknowledged that indoor tanning comes at a risk.
“If I were to ever think about doing a tanning bed, I think your presentation changed my mind,” said Trustee Les Ottenheimer.
Trustee Mike Terson said the idea of “being a trailblazer” in the suburbs appealed to him, and he wondered how other teens would react to a ban. One student said educating them about the health risks could serve as a deterrent.
And, said Stevenson student Sabrina Zalora, tanning could still be permitted for medical purposes. People who suffer from certain skin conditions use tanning beds to treat their conditions.
But just because government can legislate tanning beds, does that mean it should?
Citing a negative impact on local businesses and infringement on personal liberties, the second group of students said no.
Up to 10 percent of tanning salons’ business comes from the under-18 crowd, they argued, and if teens couldn’t tan in Buffalo Grove, they’d simply drive to another nearby town without a ban.
Rather than institute a municipal ban, the students suggested that awareness campaigns in schools and the tanning facilities could be enough to discourage teens from tanning.
“We’re not denying that tanning has health risks,” Stevenson student Juliana Snarski said. “We’re trying to change the psychology of people” so they don’t want to use tanning beds.
And, said Buffalo Grove High School student Artur Sak, “ I don’t think the government should be protecting them from themselves.”
Buffalo Grove officials aren’t necessarily looking to enact tanning bed legislation, but student input from the Civics Forum is taken into consideration, said Village Clerk Janet Sirabian, who organizes the event each year.
“What we learned about is, we have future Republicans and future Democrats in the room,” Sirabian said. "They have learned that sitting up here (on the dais) is not as easy as everybody thinks it is.”
The complete forum, which lasted about two hours, will be aired on the village's local access cable channel and will also be posted on Buffalo Grove's website.
Do you think Buffalo Grove should ban minors from using tanning beds, or should the village stick with the state law? Tell us in the comment section below.