April 10, 2013

Letters to the editor: Tan ban aims to protect teens' health

There is a mini-drama unfolding in the Legislature with a conflict between two of the different worlds in which I live: the world of medicine and the world of politics.  

click image to enlarge

Hillary Cooledge, 28, of Portland prepares to use a tanning bed at Sun Tiki Tanning in Portland last month. People under 25 who use tanning beds have a 75 percent higher risk of melanoma, says the sponsor of a bill barring minors from patronizing tanning salons.

2013 File Photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

What happens when these worlds collide is unfortunately not just the stuff of good theater -- it has major health consequences for our children.

The matter in question is whether Maine should ban the use of tanning salons for children under the age of 18.

It is medically proven that when young people tan, they're more likely to be afflicted with an extremely difficult to treat and often-deadly form of skin cancer: malignant melanoma.

According to medical studies, even minimal exposure to UV radiation from tanning beds before the age of 25 can increase the risk of developing melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, by 75 percent.

Melanoma is the second most common cancer in high school and college students, and the most common cancer in those ages 24 to 29. Because melanoma is deadly, prevention is the best cure.

This is why I sponsored L.D. 272, a bill passed by the Legislature, to prevent children under the age of 18 from using tanning salons. The proposed Maine guidelines are already in force in California and Vermont, and earlier this month, Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey signed a similar law.

This is not partisan politics; this is a public health issue and a public health hazard. Unfortunately, our governor has chosen not to put kids first and has vetoed the bill.

There are times when science and medicine should supersede politics, and this is one of those times.

Both the Senate and the House are expected to take up the bill again this week. Please contact your lawmakers and urge them to put kids first. Ask them to put public health before politics and vote to override the governor's veto.

State Sen. Geoff Gratwick, M.D., D-Bangor

Time for state to put end to cruel bear-hunting practices

Some traditions must end because they are cruel and no longer acceptable to a majority of modern-day citizens. Hounding black bears with attack dogs or trapping them near bait piles and then executing these helpless bears are two such barbaric traditions that must go.

Black bears are gentle and shy beings -- they are not dangerous war criminals. It is horrible animal abuse to allow GPS-collared, trained attack dogs to chase Maine's black bears through the woods of our state.

Bears are subdued and often torn apart alive by these dogs. If they make it up a tree, they are terrorized until the "brave hunter" gets out of his truck, follows the GPS signal and shoots the terrorized bear out of the tree. They are often still alive when they fall to the ground. The dogs attack and tear into them.

Is this ethical? Is it fair chase hunting? Maine is one of only a handful of states that still allows such "hounding" of black bears.

Maine is the only state that allows bears to be snared and trapped. Bears are lured to rotting piles of food where snares have been laid out.

A trapped bear can suffer for many hours, sometimes even a day or more, until their executioner arrives and shoots them at point-blank range. Is that ethical, fair chase hunting?

Some bear hunters sell bear parts to China or other Asian buyers where they are used as ineffective medicines. Should Maine black bears be persecuted and killed for "fun" or for phony medical cures?

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