My mom, as a dermatologist, has taught me sun safety since I was small. I was that kid who smelled like sunscreen during elementary school recess and wore rashguard shirts to the pool. Although I didn’t always appreciate what she was doing to protect me, I knew she was right. It knew it would be worth it later in life when my skin was still beautiful and wrinkle-free. I believed wholeheartedly that protecting yourself from the dangers of overexposure to ultraviolet light was a worthwhile lifetime habit. My beliefs were put to the test last summer, when I made the decision to testify in front of the Springfield City Council.
The City Council was considering an ordinance that would ban minors from using ultraviolet tanning beds, even if they had parental permission. The current Illinois law prohibits tanning under age 14, but ages 14-17 are allowed to tan with parental consent. I spoke to the mayor, aldermen, and audience about the risks of indoor tanning. For example, using a tanning bed just ten times before the age of twenty doubles your lifetime risk for melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer. I also explained that many of my peers understood that it was a cancer-causing habit, but assumed it would never happen to them, or that it wasn’t a big deal. They had become victims of addiction to tanning, and “looking good”. I realize that my family exposure has given me the benefit of understanding, but that my peers haven’t had this benefit. Although I knew I would have to deal with negative feedback from my peers who didn’t want to stop tanning, I felt sorry for those who just didn’t understand how getting cancer can change, or even end, their lives. So, after much deliberation, during which I debated if the benefits of passing the ordinance would be worth the potential retribution, I decided to profess my beliefs and testify at the City Council meeting.
With help from my youthful perspective on an issue debated solely by adults, the ordinance passed. It will soon be deliberated by the state legislature, and even on the federal level. I personally see the end of indoor tanning as the end of an era, just as smoking popularity decreased when access to minors was prohibited. Without minors having direct access to tanning beds, over time it will become less of a social trend, and hopefully eventually disappear from our society. Because I made the decision to personally contribute to the cause, I reaffirmed my beliefs.
This experience has taught me to evaluate what is truly important to me, and, when the time comes, be ready to speak up about my beliefs. In deciding to testify, I made the conscious decision to uphold my basic beliefs. I gained a newfound confidence that can only be discovered through personal experience. So it is with confidence that I advise you: Speak Up for What You Believe In. This I Believe.