Sunday, April 19, 2015

Road to Destruction ... of Tanning Beds

It's no secret ... I've been waging a war against the indoor tanning industry for many years now, ever since my daughter Jaime died at age 29 from melanoma brought on by years of tanning bed use in high school and college. How did that war begin, you ask? Read on ...

It started out as a very bumpy, winding road. The week we buried Jaime,
I began writing letters to newspapers about the dangers of tanning beds and contacted my state legislators about introducing legislation that would restrict minors' use of these killers (but to no avail). I had the passion, I had the time, I had the story, and I had the anger.

Don't get me wrong. I was not looking for something to blame for Jaime's death. She would often say, "I did this to myself." And she did. Her melanoma (although not everyone's) could have been prevented if she hadn't had an obsession to turn her very pale skin into a shade more similar to cafe au lait. So I don't blame the tanning industry for this horrific hole in my heart ... but they are partly responsible by providing a harmful product.

When Jaime was using tanning beds, no one really knew how dangerous (and deadly) they were. The Center for Disease Control now says, "Tanning beds are one of the few industries whose product, if used as the manufacturer intends, puts the user at risk of harm." I won't get into the dangers of tanning bed use here because you can read about that in my other blogs, particularly Spring: The Teen Tanning Season.

Suddenly, the road took a different turn. Because I was so vocal on the risks of tanning beds (and this was when Facebook was just in its infancy), the American Academy of Dermatology asked me to make a Public Service Announcement video based on Jaime's story. This was when the Academy and I had a good working relationship, prior to their failed insensitive attempt to change melanoma's awareness ribbon from black to orange. Read Social Media and the Black Ribbon and Promises Made Are Not Necessarily Promises Kept for more on that story.

Following that, I was apparently targeted by the indoor tanning industry in a sting operation that failed, but I only learned of this recently: I Was A Paid Shill for the Tanning Industry. I was getting under their over-baked skin and had struck a nerve, it seems!

Jaime's story, along with that of many other tanning bed victims, has been used to pass under 18 teen tan ban bills in many states, including our home state of Texas (first for an under 16 ban and finally, with my testimony in both House and Senate committees, for an under 18 ban).  The only bad part is that because of all my correspondence with state senators and representatives across the country about tanning bed legislation, I am now on ALL of their newsletters ... thousands of newsletters!

You will often see my posts in the comments sections of online newspaper & magazine articles. I have been told by the opposition that Jaime never had skin cancer or that Jaime is just a figment of my overactive imagination. Really??? Do they think their lies and personal attacks will make me stop? No, they just motivate me even more!

Jaime's story of tanning bed use and melanoma has been told in newspapers, magazines, TV news, and online for over 15 years now. Actually, one newspaper did decide not to print our interview because the reporter thought Jaime's story was too well known (OLD news) ... that was just a seldom-read little tabloid called the New York Times! Others have also stepped forward to tell their stories of tanning bed use and abuse. I hope it is all making a difference. Whether it is or not, I'm not done trying!

Her story was one presented many years ago at hearings of an FDA panel for tighter restriction of tanning beds, and recently we have seen them act on those recommendations. With the US Surgeon General joining our cries against tanning beds, the road to destruction of tanning beds is getting smoother and straighter, soon to be a superhighway!

For years I have watched as the Facebook melanoma community found each other and then broke away into smaller, more specific groups -- for support, for sun safety, for melanoma, for skin cancer -- but nothing solely for indoor tanning. So last December I started the group Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds, which now has over 1,860 like-minds who want to create awareness about the pain and suffering that tanning beds create. The story of what I have discovered through Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds will be my next blog ... so stay tuned.

Many years ago I proclaimed myself to be the indoor tanning industry's worst nightmare, and I believe that I have lived up to that title. The bad news is that there is so much more work to be done, and the more I dig into this industry, the more dirt I find. The good news is, however, that I have found more friends who are also royal pains in the tanning industry's butt ... and together we are getting even LOUDER!!

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)