Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Colleges & Tanning ... Looking Back on 2015

2015 was the first year of Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds' existence. It was a busy year, starting with Tanning Bed Dangers Awareness Month in January and expanding to five different projects and a membership of over 2600. See these blogs (Road to Destruction ... for Tanning Beds and Birth of an Anti-Tanning Grassroots Movement) for info on how and why this group came to be.

It was also an educational year, concentrating our efforts on the connections between indoor tanning and colleges/universities. Too many colleges are making it much too convenient for their students to participate in the dangerous behavior of using tanning beds. Do they not care about the health and safety of their students? Or are college administrators unaware of the dangers of tanning beds? Or is this part of the plan to lure students and their money?

I think I learned more than I really wanted to know about colleges and their administration, about off-campus housing and their management, about people. I think I prefer being naive, but there's no going back now.

Emails were sent out to over 300 college presidents on the topic of their university's connection with indoor tanning ... actually they were sent twice because of lack of response. It became apparent that most presidents do not know whether their institutions have a connection with the tanning industry ... but in truth, almost all of them do.

We found that these connections might occur through the Dept of Housing, with partnerships/affiliations with off-campus housing offering tanning beds free to the students or working through third-party housing location companies that advertise off-campus facilities that include tanning beds among their amenities on the university's web sites.

Or indoor tanning connections might be seen through the Athletic Dept, with sponsorships by tanning salons or advertising at games or in event programs often arranged by third-party marketing companies. Some tanning salons claim to be the "official" tanning salon for the cheer teams of various colleges. The University of Louisville has a notorious connection with the tanning industry according to this article!

The Finance Office might provide a link to tanning by providing student cash cards that can be used to pay for tanning services at participating tanning salons. Grand Valley State University in Michigan claimed that they would continue to allow tanning salons to participate in their cash card program because it would be breaking the law to not do so. I never received a copy of that law from them even after asking several times.

The Student Government Association is another route that permits indoor tanning to connect with college students, raising funds by offering a student ID discount program and allowing local tanning salons to participate.

The student newspapers of many colleges are not supervised or regulated by the university so articles promoting the use of tanning beds or advertising by tanning salons can and do appear as well. That's an area we will be concentrating on next.

Most colleges, at least the larger ones, have some connections to tanning. Some even house tanning beds on their campuses, and it is becoming more common for them to be in their dorms! See this article about the direction student housing is headed. Colleges have become large businesses first, institutions of higher learning second ... or so it appears to me.

For example (just one of many), through conversations with various officials at Purdue University, I learned that the tanning salon located on their campus isn't technically (according to them) on their campus. That block of retail on the edge of their campus is owned by the Purdue Research Foundation, which I was told had no connection to Purdue University. Yet the President of Purdue is the Chairman of the Board of the research foundation ... which seems like a pretty strong connection to me! Check out this article that reported this info about Purdue.

At this point we have heard back from most of the colleges (after contacting them through multiple emails, Facebook posts and messages, and tweets). See our results in the Notes section of Pull the Plug's page in our Good, Bad, and Ugly list. But we are far from done with this issue! It appears that the FDA will be putting a ban on using tanning beds on those kids younger than 18, but that still leaves those young people 18-21 vulnerable. Their lives deserve to be protected, too! So on to 2016 ...

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dare to Dream

Last Friday was just a normal Friday ... or as normal as the Friday before Christmas could be ... until I received a notice from the FDA of a HUGE, earth-shattering announcement. They were proposing a ban against tanning bed use for all minors under 18 in the US! I had heard through the grapevine that this ban was coming, but I didn't know when. And I wasn't holding my breath because I'd been holding it for too many years already. Then suddenly, last Friday became AMAZING! The planets had aligned!!

It was almost 6 years ago that presentations were made at a FDA hearing on the issue of teens and tanning beds. One of my friends from the melanoma community gave this presentation that included Jaime's story. 

Her presentation was one of many that shared stories about how tanning beds had changed or destroyed young lives. The hearings seemed promising ... but then the waiting game began. If you know me, you know that I am not a patient person, so ...

In the meantime, my attention turned to state legislation when Texas introduced a bill to restrict children under 16 from using tanning beds. Even though it wasn't the under-18 bill that I was dreaming of (and many thought it was just a foolish pipe dream!), it was a step in the right direction. With help from Jaime's story, it passed, which was surprising for such a conservative state. (And eventually, a full under-18 tanning bed ban would pass as well!)

Others began to share my seemingly impossible dream of an under-18 ban in every state. I'm not sure I even really believed that it was possible ... but I was being pushed ahead by some energy and force that insisted I just keep going. (Thank you, Miss J!) Then along came AIM at Melanoma, working on an under 18 tan ban in California, and I was hooked! Although it was far from easy, it passed! Twelve other states would follow to pass under-18 tan ban laws, but for years many more tried and failed. I am proud, along with Jaime and many, many others, to have been part of most of these difficult battles, but my dream was that all 50 states would pass these laws to protect their children by keeping them out of tanning beds ... and there was a long way to go.

Then just as my energy was draining and my dream was dimming, last year the FDA renewed its focus on under-18 use of tanning beds. It announced a strong recommendation against the use of UV devices by all minors. Many of us thanked them, but also let them know that it just wasn't enough.

And that led to Friday's announcement. Now there will be a 90-day period to respond to their proposal, and assuming it will be adopted ... that will put it becoming official just about on the 9th anniversary of Jaime's death!

The stories of all the melanoma victims whose cancer was brought on by tanning bed use have been heard, including my Jaime's. The years of hard work by thousands of supporters for this teen tan ban are FINALLY bearing fruit. Many lives will be saved!! I am proud to have played a role in this, and my sincere thanks go out to everyone who contributed to making this happen, to those who dared to dream.

But wait ... we're not done yet with the indoor tanning industry! Visit and "like" our Facebook group Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds to keep updated regarding our continuing efforts. Now that we have seen the impossible become possible, there is no dream too big!!

Melanoma Mama (Jaime's mom, Donna) (Remember Jaime) (Pull the Plug on Tanning Beds) (Jjem Creations) (Jjem Creations)