General Question

Poser's avatar

Should sunscreen use be compulsory by law?

Asked by Poser (7805points) June 18th, 2009 from iPhone

The justification for “self-protection” laws such as seat belts and helmet laws is always that they help keep health costs down for everyone. If this is the case, why are smoking and drinking legal? And why aren’t I required by law to wear sunscreen if my failure to do so could potentially force others to indirectly pay for my carelessness?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

35 Answers

Harp's avatar

Only light-skinned people have to worry about sunscreen. Everybody has to worry about the other risks you mentioned.

Smoking and drinking are legal because a lot of influential people, not to mention the government, get rich off of them.

Likeradar's avatar

@Harp Everyone is advised to wear sunscreen, not just light skinned people.

kenmc's avatar

@Harp So light-skinned people are lesser than others?

Ivan's avatar


In what possible context could you ever draw that conclusion from Harp’s comment?

Harp's avatar

@boots My point is that the government won’t craft legislation aimed only at a particular racial feature.

kenmc's avatar

@Ivan Because light-skinned people don’t deserve a law.

@Harp So no fence across the Mexican boarder?

robmandu's avatar

My point is that the government won’t craft legislation aimed only at a particular racial feature.

Eh? Say what? ツ

OpryLeigh's avatar

I believe that people should be made to take a certain amount of responsibilty for themselves so no, I don’t think there should be any law.

Facade's avatar

The government will never make that law.

DominicX's avatar

No, because you don’t always need to wear sunscreen. I don’t like sunscreen. I only wear it when there’s an actual risk of me getting sunburned. Truth to be told, I can only think of one instance where I was actually sunburned and it was peeling and all that.

1. How would they determine when you need and don’t need to wear it?
2. How would they tell you were wearing it? Are they going to go up to you and feel your skin? What if it’s some weird natural sunscreen that leaves almost no trace?

I know this wasn’t meant to be that serious, but it’s not exactly the right example. There’s simply a line that can be drawn. Not using seat-belts can cause death. Not using sunscreen may or may not result in skin cancer and it doesn’t harm anyone else around you. Alcohol may not be illegal, but drunk driving is. Same reason. It’s about personal choice until it presents risks to others.

fireinthepriory's avatar

I agree, this is an insane question. Yes, some laws are made to keep us from making stupid mistakes and getting killed, however they are not made to restrict our every activity until we aren’t able to make basic life choices. Can you imagine McDonald’s being outlawed and government-mandated exercise for all citizens? That would be insane.

Harp's avatar

Light-skinned people are 22 times more likely to develop skin cancer than African-Americans, and the disproportion is far greater if you rule out cancers not due to sun exposure. Light skin is a race-linked feature. What would the government do, require this only of light-skinned people? Unconstitutional. Add the burden to dark-skinned people even though it would have little impact on their health? This would instantly be shot down as placing a disproportionate burden based on a racial characteristic. The government wouldn’t touch it.

Imagine that there were a disease that only one racial group was vulnerable to, and that a vaccine exists for this disease. The government would never require that groups not vulnerable to this disease get the vaccine. This is the same scenario.

nikipedia's avatar

I think when making self-protection laws the government probably also weighs:

1. The magnitude of the problem,
2. The difficulty of the self-protection measure,
3. The benefits of NOT using the self-protection measure.

Pretty much everyone knows someone who has died in a car accident; very few people know someone who has died of skin cancer, so i think it’s safe to say that death by car accident is far more common, and therefore the government is a lot more concerned with minimizing deaths from that. The magnitude of the car accident problem is a lot bigger, so it’s more of a concern.

The difficulty of the self-protection measure is probably also a consideration—putting on your seatbelt is so ridiculously simple that mandating it by law doesn’t cause anyone a significant burden. Compulsory exercise, on the other hand, would probably have an even greater impact on public health, but the burden it would put on people is so large that the government is unlikely to consider it.

I would bet that alcohol and tobacco are still legal because aside from the historical reasons using them still has some benefit in the form of subjective enjoyment by the user. Not wearing your seatbelt or not putting on sunscreen doesn’t really have any benefit.

If we are really concerned with public health, I think the real question we should be asking is why we allow portion sizes to be so huge, why we allow fast food to be ubiquitous, why we let law makers be influenced by tobacco companies, and so on.

casheroo's avatar

First they should take out all the cancer causing agents in our suncreen. Blech.

DominicX's avatar


lol…you would say that.

dynamicduo's avatar

There can only be a certain level of nannying by the state before people will leave. Having sunscreen police to legislate what I choose to do with my skin is taking it WAY too far. It’s an infringement into my personal liberties. It’s my body, I’ll do what I want with it.

Things like seatbelt and helmet laws are a bit different. If someone crashes their car and flies out the window, it’s a much larger social cost and impact than if they had a seat belt on. Same with a biker, in morning rush hour traffic the helmet can be the difference between a hospital ride and a watermelon like situation. Skin cancer doesn’t have this effect, you don’t burden society down nearly as much when you develop melanoma at 80 years old cause you didn’t wear sunscreen.

And the reason alcohol and tobacco are legal is because governments make millions on the taxes and lobbying by the industries. Thinking that the government actually cares about you, beyond your continued paying of taxes, is a foolish thought.

Likeradar's avatar

@casheroo Totally off topic… I bought Alba sunblock this summer. Is it safer than the other stuff?

noelasun's avatar

I don’t think that “self-protection laws” or laws such as the seat belt laws should be laws at all.
I do think people aught to wear seatbelts, but I don’t think it’s the place of lawmakers to regulate whether people do or not.
Insurance seems to me to be a better place to regulate instead of “self-protection” laws.

Zaku's avatar

Just wait when the 80-year-old libertarians are about to die of skin cancer, and they decide to go postal against the insurance industry lobbyists… oh wait, by then Homeland Security will have a computer program predicting that threat and proactively having them disappear to a secret prison.

SeventhSense's avatar

Only light-skinned people have to worry about sunscreen
Interesting article here

casheroo's avatar

@Likeradar I don’t know much about that brand. I’d have to know specifically which sunscreen. check this out

@dominicx thanks, I guess.

Dorkgirl's avatar

It’s none of the government’s damned business if I wear sunscreen or not. For crying out loud—please don’t legislate me any more than I already am, thank you very much.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Seat belt laws are far from tyranny nor do I think it’s any sort of “slippery slope” situation.

bea2345's avatar

In any case, how is such a law to be enforced? It is pretty clear who isn’t using a seatbelt, but one’s skin cream is another’s sunscreen, and who’s to tell? Forget the personal liberties part, it is enforceability, or rather its lack, that helps to preserve one’s liberties: after the experiment with prohibition, it was fairly obvious that a law only works if the majority go along with it.

DeanV's avatar

I don’t think by law, but it should really be common sense. That, and how would they enforce this sunscreen law?

To quote a Rage Against The Machine song, “Burn, burn, yes you’re gonna burn!”

mattbrowne's avatar

Should regular exercise compulsory by law? Should eating fruit and vegetables be compulsory by law? Where does it end?

We need good education. We need good media. Most people will use sunscreen.

bea2345's avatar

For some reason (maybe it will come to me) this thread reminds me of a song:

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire;
we don’t have no water,
let the——er burn.

Nullo's avatar

It is better if we can avoid making more laws.

bea2345's avatar

Yes. I saw in today’s papers that a campaign is on to ban drop-side cribs. Not a good idea. What is needed is the enforcement of standards.

Nullo's avatar

@mattbrowne There should be a law that lets me throw hot grease at obnoxious people in the store. :D

sungod42's avatar

sunscreen stops your body making vitamin D which you could raise your chances of death from prostrate cancer, breast cancer or osteoporosis or Multiple sclerosis. Rickets in children will also make a return,if you are dark skinned you will need more sun to make enough vitamin D.So to make sunscreens compulsory would do far more harm than good as breast and prostrate cancer are high in our society as is osteoporosis whereas even in Australia the highest melanoma rate in the world it is still at only 4% plus sunscreens have photosensitive chemicals which can cause burn to go down deeper in the tissues causing cancer instead of preventing it-

sungod42's avatar

No sunscreens should not be compulsory this is why Have a look at this Sydney university study from Australia on sunlight and vitamin D for cancer prevention

sungod42's avatar

here is another very important reason it should not be enforced to wear sunscreen
Report below from Sydney university on Vitamin D deficiency causing osteoporosis, diabetes ,prostrate cancer and breast cancer.
Peter Dingle is Associate Professor in Health and the Environment at Murdoch University, Western Australia here is a report on the toxins in sunscreens.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther