Indoor Tanning Beds Causes Teen Binge Drinking and Risky Sex. Wait. What?

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February 27, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013

over done tan girl

No worries Mom, I’m not going out binge drinking. I can’t really even open my mouth.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now claims that teens, especially girls, who use indoor tanning salons or sun lamps are more likely to binge drink, do drugs, engage in unprotected sex and eat unhealthy diets. Oh yes, and to mouth off at their parents. (okay, I made up that last one but probably, right?)

It may just be the Coppertone talking here but isn’t this a bit of a stretch even for the good folks at the CDC?

I mean what are the teen girls and boys who aren’t under the sun lamp and don’t know a Brazilian bikini from a Scandinavian low-cut surf-suit doing? Engaging in high-level quantitative research with major socio-economic implications when not critiquing the collective works of Einstein and Newtonian physics?

Is the threshold between complete derelicts and model students really found right about at one’s bikini tan-line?

Okay, maybe that’s only reinforcing the CDC finding. Don’t answer that one.

But, still.

I get that if you spend your hard-earned tips or your parents hard-earned cash at a tanning salon the odds increase that you want to show off your newly bronzed bod. And if you happen to be a girl there’s that chance that you may wish to show it off to the opposite sex. And that can only lead to co-tanning bed use. Or something along those lines.

But the newly published CDC report seems to isolate tanning beds as a correlative, if not a causative factor for a whole range of risky behaviors by teens. And the report seems to place the blame right at the foot of the tanning bed.

tanning girl

It’s not my fault for my wildly permissive lifestyle, it’s this dang tanning bed.

You mean it’s all about the tan-tone and raging hormones aren’t really to blame?

Gee, that does explain why Lindsay Lohan went “bad,” it was the tanning beds after all. Who knew?

Look, I’m not encouraging the use of tanning beds. Skin cancer (melanoma) seems to be a far more obvious and perilous consequence of laying under a tanning bed with UV rays penetrating your skin than it does as the culprit for why teens “go wild.”

In fact, I’d much prefer the CDC launch a widely publicized study of the health hazards of tanning salons than this approach.

How dangerous are these tanning beds?

The American Academy of Dermatology reports the following:

  • 1 million Americans use tanning salons a day
  • 70% of its users are Caucasian girls between the ages of 15-28
  •  28 million people tan indoors each year (lots of repeat customers)
  • Nearly 2.5 million tanning bed users are teen girls
  • Indoor tanners increase the risk of melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma (trust me, not things you want)
  • every year over 5,000 people are treated for overexposure (skin poisoning) from tanning bed use. Majority are teen girls.

Some state officials are moving to address this peril. Illinois, Texas, and Nevada have made it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use tanning salons while states like Connecticut and Vermont have banned it for anyone under age 17.

That’s a start.

Maybe, this latest CDC report is a strategy to get the attention of parents who may be okay with their teen getting bronzed under a lamp but not okay with all the other risky behavior that seems to follow.

What we should all be concerned about though is the unavoidable health risk of getting under the tanning beds in the first place.

over tanned woman

I still don’t see what’s wrong with a little tanning bed treatment now and again…

And I haven’t even mentioned the latest trend the CDC does not condone-teen boys getting silicone and botox-like injections or fillers into their calves to get a more “manly” and complete physique.

Yep, nothing turns on the opposite sex more than an artificially pumped-up calf muscle. Geez, maybe the teen boys should try hitting the tanning salon instead. Wait, no clearly, that is not the answer either.

tanning bed guy

First, the tan, then the calf muscle injections and then I hit the beach.

How about being a little (okay, a lot) less preoccupied with our looks and skin tone and a whole lot more focused on our collective health and well-being?

It may put a crimp in the nearly $3 billion industry of tanning salons but they’ll survive. They always do, don’t they?

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40 thoughts on “Indoor Tanning Beds Causes Teen Binge Drinking and Risky Sex. Wait. What?

  1. Karen P W says:

    It’s good to live in an America that values brown skin! Oh, Wait!

  2. Justin L says:

    I saw this article as more of a humorous piece rather than actual factual information. I’m pretty sure it is a given that girls who use tanning beds are focusing on two major things: their appearance to the opposite sex, and not being Casper the friendly ghost when summer finally comes back around. However, I do not believe these two things create a partying, disrespectful, unhealthy, drug addict. It may be a coincidence that these type of girls tend to tan, but in no way shape or form does tanning cause these issues. If your kids do such things as drugs and drink/have sex underage, I’m pretty sure they were doing that before they became addicted to orange burnt skin. That is the underlying issue here anyway. It isn’t that you can’t teach to your teens not to do illegal or idiotic things, but the fact that they may be developing skin cancer or other harmful diseases just because they want their skin darker. The way our society is shaped today, teens will continue to tan and try to look perfect because of shows on MTV and other reality TV shows that portray what a teen “should” be experiencing in their younger years.

    • Justin
      Sure, humor was a big part but the CDC report and finding is very real and my point about the need to publicize how truly dangerous tanning beds are is one I feel of course strongly about.

  3. Jill V says:

    I would definitely argue that the use of tanning beds does not correlate with irrational behavior from any adolescent. I do believe that choices such as the use of a tanning bed may demonstrate a younger adult’s care for one self, which I guess you could argue, may lead to foolish behavior. However, some adolescents have no desire to engage in drugs, risqué behavior, etc….maybe they just have an issue with their own appearance. In today’s world the struggle to be just like the next big celebrity or the model on the magazine cover torments our teenagers. I feel they are constantly battling the thoughts of “should I look like her/him.”
    So, even though heightening self-esteem through the use of a tanning bed in my mind is not a good alternative to our youth’s conduct, this would be my justification for adolescents choosing a tanning bed. I can remember when I was young; I wanted to look like I just came from the beach and flaunt a stunning bronze appearance. What girl doesn’t try to be noticed or look just as good as others when they’re that age? I think it is sad to think that our society still has not accepted this mentality that they’re beautiful and they don’t need the tanning beds, the Botox, lasers, etc. to be able to love who they are.
    Encouragement is what our generation should be working to increase. We should teach them the rights and wrongs, while still trying to allow this fine line of them being able to find themselves and have their personal freedom. In the end we all make choices. We just need to work on making sure the choices we make are to better ourselves. Respect your bodies…it’s the only one we have.

  4. Tyler Wall says:

    Girls have gotten to the point to where they want to be noticed. They want to fit in and look the best they can. Personally i don’t want girls to get into the tanning bed because of all the bad things that could come out of it. A lot of the girls i know that get into the tanning bed drink and some do drugs. But i also know girls who have never stepped foot in one and are burnouts.

  5. Haley Gray says:

    As a melanoma survivor myself, and a tanning lamp user as a teen, and growing up in the tropics, I want to show these kids the 4″ scar I have on my neck from that tiny spot of melanoma.

    To me, it’s something that we shouldn’t be allowing or encouraging people to do, and instead educating. Unfortunately, melanoma is something that “might” happen, in 20 or 30 years or more. Most kids don’t know anyone who has been affected, or have any idea of the impact. So, taking into consideration how the human mind works, the after effects are so far out, that it really doesn’t factor into their decision making (Read Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” to understand that the human mind doesn’t do delayed very well)

  6. Gabrielle R says:

    In reading this article, i found it very insteresting. Although it was amususing, I do not agree with the message. There is not relationship between teen’s behavior and tanning in doors. This is a topic that should be viewed a little more!

  7. Wade M says:

    Dr. Rabidoux,

    I concur with your point. We need to be a lot more concerned about the causation of skin cancer than the correlation with social behaviors. My generation had no clue about all of the days in our youth exposed to the sun. Now, I know several people my age who have to really have to wear all kinds of sunscreen just to spend a couple of hours at the pool or beach.

  8. Kevin says:

    this article is hilarious but what the CDC found in their studies is real. we need to be more aware of what we are doing to our bodies and how know how harmful it could be just to be aliite bit tan.

  9. Harley J says:

    I don’t think there’s any kind of connection between the use of tanning beds and some girls making stupid decisions. If someone wants to get drunk or do drugs, they’re gonna do it regardless if they’re tan or not. However, I do believe tanning beds are a bad decision all together. I had skin cancer and learned all about how harmful those kind of intense rays can be to your skin. I think more should be done to encourage girls not to go to the tanning salon and to inform them of how harmful it can be.

  10. Savanna G says:

    I know plenty of people who don’t go to tanning beds and they still do drugs and drink every weekend. I don’t think that the tanning beds have anything to do with they way these teens are acting but I do think that it is a possibility that people that do go to tanning beds are trying to show off their tan skin which could lead to more sexual behavior.

  11. Allison M says:

    The idea that tanning beds are linked to rude and reckless behavior is ludicrous. I know plenty of pasty, drunken, little brats and lots of lovely Doritio’s orange people. I don’t use tanning beds because I don’t really want to pay to get skin cancer but most of my friends do. I have seen a correlation between those who drink like sailors and tan like bikini models but I think it’s because they’re very wrapped up in being “attractive” and social. I highly doubt they drink and party because they tan or vice versa. I think it has to do with the type of people they are and how they see themselves. We should, as a society, pull away from the idea that tan is beautiful and remind girls that natural beauty is the best beauty. I tend to get very dark naturally in the summer and some what pale in the winter, which makes sense, being incredible tan all year round is just…unnatural and odd looking.

  12. Ben N says:

    It’s not so much as what they’re using, it’s who is using them. Most girls who use tanning beds come from well off families and are often in shape. Also, tanning does increase attractiveness. With factors like these, it is obvious that these are the types of girls who will be at parties, clubs, or places known for promiscuity. These girls aren’t going to the tanning bed to go sit in their bedrooms and read the bible.. they’re going to go out and enjoy themselves and show off their tans. Also, if a girl has enough time to go to the tanning bed, then she has enough time to get into trouble. However, it is important to not stereotype everyone that is using tanning beds.

  13. Wow, I love how so many people refer to a sun-bed user as a she, her, girl etc. There are plenty of male tanning bed users. Just look at all of the body builders. In any case, the study did specifically say “especially girls”. While there may be a strong correlation between tanning bed use and binge drinking, unprotected sex, and drug use, it just doesn’t seem like something worthy of investigation. I would think it more important to examine the many health hazards associated with sun-lamp use, as well as the motivations driving those to artificially tan. As someone else mentioned, perhaps the CDC intends to use this data to encourage more states to participate in an age ban, as it’s unrealistic to seek an all out ban of tanning salons. Having grown up in Florida, it was commonplace to sport a tan year round. I remember going to the tanning salons with my mother as a teen. This behavior was ignorance. I hope the CDC does continue to provoke an age ban. Again, I hope that is what it intends to do with this strange study.

    • Cynthia-Good to remind all that many guys do tanning beds a lot as well…and I totally agree as I argue in my blog, the CDC should be educating all about the hazards not somewhat dubious correlation between the tanning beds and risky behavior.

  14. Rebecca C says:

    My parents have owned a tanning salon for almost six years now. The CDC’s outlook on this is ridiculous. Seems almost as bad as blaming being “too spoiled” to have a get out of jail free card. It is procedure that we put up signs informing our customers about the dangers of tanning beds, so it is completely their own risk. As for the CDC, I have tanned in the tanning bed since I was 17 and I have completed high school, currently work two jobs, and I am a full time college student. I guess if I decide to go off and do something wild and crazy I should just blame my tanning salon? Hmmm.. We’ll see how well that goes over with the law.

  15. Taranesha says:

    It’s really ironic why people use tanning beds in the first place. How many African Americans,Asians, or Latinos do you know that use the tanning bed? Although these are the minority groups that “supposedly” nobody wants to be, we seem to have that really desirable thing that our skin does.
    On the subject about the correlation between tanning beds and wild behavior I can agree with it. The main reason is because I know a lot of girls always want to look good and when they look good they in turn want to show it off. They go to a party and get drunk and do things that they regret the next day. Now that’s not to say that everyone does that, but I know it to be true and I’m not even a tanner!

  16. K. Reigene M says:

    This is a very humorous article. At the simple fact that the CDC thinks that the “risky and wild” behavior comes from tanning salons and the media they engage in every day is quite funny. Please tell me how does baking yourself on hours on end cause you to want to have a wild crazy party. Honestly, I think it’s the media thats doing this. Not tanning. I mean lets use our common sense here, there sex all on TV not to mention the mommy porn series 50 Shades of Gray that they are most likely reading. It’s in the music no not just rap but in country too. It’s every where. And America has made is sociably acceptable to live that wild crazy teen life. So no CDC you are wrong when it comes to this one I highly doubt tanning beds are the root to the crazy teen life.

  17. Briana R says:

    The CDC report is very humorous, in the fact that they are trying o link teen girls behavior to tanning beds. Teen girls will do all of that regardless of if they are tanning in a tanning bed or not. So does that mean girls that are tanning outside are not partying and doing drugs? Maybe I should switch to outdoor tanning so I don’t start having erratic behavior! As someone who use to work at a tanning salon I do support tanning beds. I do understand the risks and I do not encourage people to get to the point of where it is dangerous. But to blame tannings beds alone of skin cancer is not accurate. Someone can get skin cancer from cutting the grass or going running outside. Our bodies have a low vitamin D efficiency and the UV rays help our bodies to accommodate more vitamin D. If you tan safely and with caution you can avoid many of the risks with tanning. Everything comes with risks, but does that mean we shouldn’t do them because of fear? If that were the case everyone would be afraid to walk out of their house everyday or get in a car.

  18. Erica T-F says:

    The connection between binge drinking and tanning seems a little far stretched….wouldn’t tanning be the equivalent to getting a pedicure/manicure or even a new hairstyle? The basis behind all is to make yourself –body, feet, hands and hair feel better and look better so how exactly does that motivate me to drink first off and drink excessively to the point where I am binge drinking? I agree with some of the other studies that CDC have done on the link between parental history of drinking, drinking while in high school, drinking to relief stress as a precursor to binge drinking, but I am not in agreement with the tanning correlation.

  19. Marley Burke says:

    If the CDC is arguing that tanning causes girls to have sex, do drugs, and drink alcohol… Has anyone thought that those who tan will think the conclusion is bull and will take any conclusion the CDC has made as false? The results of the studies are obviously horrible. I may have believed it if they’d said that girls who have sex, do drugs, and drink alcohol are more likely to go the tanning bed. But what about people who don’t buy the original statement? I think that young teenage girls could decide that the actual dangers of a tanning bed are also an exageration.

  20. Gabrielle W says:

    Well, this seems a little ridiculous. I have a theory. Maybe, just maybe, the correlation isn’t tanning and doing drugs/drinking/having risky sex, maybe the overall contributing factor is apathy. People simply don’t care about the outcome of all of these things. Tanning isn’t the problem, not caring is.

  21. Lauren Thomas says:

    I personally have never experienced the use of tanning beds, but I have heard that they are dangerous. Young people usually don’t care about the consequences of their actions; they are very daring and want to do everything while they are young. A teenager that does drugs, has risky sex, and drinks a lot, probably does not care about the consequences of the tanning beds because they are minor to the consequences of them getting caught for they’re other behaviors. Their appearance, and who they impress is probably the most important thing on their mind.

  22. Alison M. says:

    Articles like this make me lose hope in our government. The CDC’s claim states that teens who engage in tanning salons are more likely to binge drink, do drugs, engaged unprotected sex, and unhealthy diets. But that really sounds like majority of teens to me, there’s always a new study out saying how this generations of teen are lazier, dumber, or fatter then the last. After couple years that generation grows up and they become normal adults just like everyone else. These studies don’t surprise me I’m sure they will be saying the same things about our kids. That is if my generation doesn’t die from binge drinking and risky sex.

  23. Casey H says:

    This reminds me of an article I read in regards to video games causing violence. So many people play games these days that these incidents could just as likely be blamed on wearing a red t-shirt. Just because teens do a lot of one thing and a lot of another thing does not mean they are connected.

    With this logic I can assume people more televisions also are healthier. It’s totally not due to the their amount of income.

  24. Lisa R says:

    Rather than focusing on this kind of study, the CDC should focus on the harmful and sometimes deadly effects of tanning beds. Linking drug use and unprotected sex with the tanning bed is almost tacky. For the most part, teenagers are only concerned with their friends, reputation, and how they look. And with most teens capturing daily “selfies”, it is not surprising that they want a nice tan to go along with it. Other than banning tanning bed use altogether, or at least until the age of 18, there is not much that anyone can do other than educate teens on the harmful effects. Most of us have been through the teenage years, and I can say I have been to tanning beds in the past. Although it was a long time ago, I was not worried about what danger I was doing to my body at the time and it wasn’t until a family member got skin cancer that I realized things. The main point here is that linking tanning beds to drugs and unprotected sex is not going to help matters. Continuing to try and educate teens and the population in general of the damaging effects is what needs to be the focus.

  25. Lisa S says:

    Stating that the use of tanning beds causes risky behavior, is a very interesting correlation. I would enjoy reading the statistical analysis conducted to come to this conclusion. If this is correct, the elimination or regulation of tanning bed could be revolutionary for teens. For youth organizations, every little bit helps in the fight to recognize behaviors that can help identify ways to assist our youth. In regards to the CDC, when will tanning be viewed the same way as cigarettes with tougher regulations. I am not sure I am a believer of the CDC’s study, but if this is an avenue to create program funding to help risk at youth of tanning so they can avoid, binge drinking and risky sexual behaviour, then I am in full support. Nonprofits are in financial crisis and funding opportunities are limited. Another interesting part of this post focuses on boys. The self esteem of boys is just as fragile as teen girls, but there are not a lot of programs directed to really focus on boys self esteem. Not every boy is an athlete, which is one of the main areas where direct focus is placed on building up boys. We need to push for stronger regulations of tanning facilities, because as the industry remains a billion dollar industry underaged youth will continue to use the facilities.

    NP MGT

  26. Fransiska says:

    Beauty is the number one aspect that is valued in America. Looks sell, look at all the magazines, tv commercials and all other marketing schemes. All of these represents beauty. Some Americas no longer care about how bad something is for them. Some only care about how other perceive them and how they will be looked at. People wake up, we are dying from trying to achieve the Barbie look.

  27. Michael R. says:

    Basic scientific research 101, correlation does not equal causation. For the CDC to suggest that tanning leads to such behaviors by adolescent females is unscientific. There are far too many variables in a young person’s life to suggest that only tanning leads to copious amounts of “bad” behavior. Although, I have not read the CDC’s actual report, I am quite interested as of now. If the focus is shifted towards educating the youth of today on the dangers of tanning then maybe we will be on our way to ending or drastically reducing the practice for young males and females.

  28. Nicole says:

    I can relate with this article, one, because I was that tanning-bed addict white girl, and two, because I was also participating in 1, or 2 (or 3) of the unflattering behaviors the CDC warns you about. In fact, I was just at the dermatologist today facing the reality of the damage I may or may not have cause in my years napping in the tanning beds. Don’t be misinformed, the tan itself was only second to the best nap you’ll ever have. Truth. It is only a guess, but I would be willing to bet the connection between all of the above was not one of strong significance. It may be a new approach in reaching the parents of these fake bake babies. It is my opinion that the dangers of tanning beds have not been appropriately advertised to the target markets. The damage that is done in a tanning bed is irreparable and life threatening. Parents that blindly allow their children to utilize the tanning bed may bend an ear more to, unprotected sex, drugs and back talk (shameful). I say more power to the CDC, do whatever they need to do in order to warn the public. Vain, self obsessed teenagers certainly aren’t listening.

  29. Kristin says:

    I use the tanning bed. I use it because I am stuck inside of my office all day everyday not able to go lay by the pool with my friends. I like to use the tanning bed because I like to be tan. It makes me have a better self confidence level. However I do not engage in binge drink, doing drugs, engage in unprotected sex. Well I do eat unhealthy, but I do not think that has anything to do with me using a tanning bed. I just really like sweets. I think it is a personal choice of things that girls do. My parents were okay with me using a tanning bed all throughout my teens and early adulthood. Both of my parents are right there with me using the tanning bed. I know there are health risks with it. But, even using a cell phone has health risks. I am not saying that everyone should go out and use a tanning bed and that they are okay. But, you should have the choice yourself and not worry about what other people may think of you.

  30. callenm says:

    I found this post hilarious and ridiculous at the same time! I have always viewed the CDC as a great source for information, but I have to agree that this seems a bit farfetched. As an oversized t-shirt wearing, tanning bed user sorority girl (I assume those things also lead to such lifestyles) in college I can honestly say I did none of those things except for maybe have an unhealthy diet (who in college doesn’t?). I feel that the CDC really produced more of a stereotype rather than creditable data with that argument. Tanning beds were all the range in my college town. It was a free amenity right beside the gym at my apartment complex or maybe it was included in the $500 a month my parents were paying?! I have not laid in a tanning bed in several years just for the fact that I have wised up and put my health over being a shade darker in February!

  31. hlwaits says:

    This is funny and pretty interesting if you think about it.. You would think the CDC would have better things to do research on. I used the tanning bed whenever I was in high school and mostly because I did not know any better. This was before there would so many studies on how terrible it was for your skin. I can assure you that I was not doing any of those other crazy things that they are stating that you must do if you are tanning in a tanning bed. The CDC was bored…

  32. SJPE says:

    One of the culture shocks I received when I moved to the US was related to skin care & skin cancer prevention I didn’t even know tanning beds were a thing growing up. I noticed so many young women when I moved here seemed to make weekly tanning salon visits, I was asked why I didn’t go, um, melanoma, that’s why. I pay money for sunscreen to keep that stuff off my skin, why would I pay money to be irradiated?. Everything in Australia is trying to kill you, even the sun, gotta learn that young. If you were out in the sun you had on sunscreen and a hat because you don’t want to be sun-burnt or have melanoma. Kids aren’t allowed to play at recess unless they are wearing a hat (‘no hat no play’ policies are prevalent in Australia). No hat kid? Sit in the shade and play. You couldn’t go to the movies without a dozen eggs singing “me no fry” at you (it was a public health campaign, seriously).
    So I sent my kindergartner off to school, in South Ga, in August, with a hat. Because obviously, my fair-skinned, redheaded babe needed protection from the sun. Kiddo is not allowed to wear hat or have hat or bring hat to school.
    I question the school, please explain?
    “Well, it is a health issue” they say.
    “Well”, I agree “it certainly is, so why can’t my child have a hat at recess?”
    “No you don’t understand” they say, “hats spread lice, we can’t have that. No hats, it is our policy, and they are only out for 10-15 minutes, not long enough for damage, your child looks like she needs some sun.”
    No, my child does not need some sun, my child will burn in less than 10 minutes in the south Ga summer sun.

    And what do you mean only 10 minutes of recess?- But that is a whole ‘nother rant.

    Skin cancer is addressed as a serious public health issue in Australia, as is firearms (again another rant). I find it difficult to believe parents would accept a “no hat no play” policy in the US.
    MD’s don’t even consider a skin check part of an annual physical, “if you want that I’ll refer you to a dermatologist” But I don’t want to spend a half day and another copay for another annual check up. How is my skin not considered included as part of an annual physical?

    I will have to look up the study. I am kind of confused as to what the aim was and exactly what they are claiming. The CDC does some great things, and like most of us have limited resources, so, how did this get to be a priority? Was it a correlation brought out in a larger study? It sounds like just another risk taking behavior. Should I be surprised that teens who take risks A and B also take risk C?

    I love a sun-burnt country, just not sun-burnt shoulders, or melanoma.

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