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Leave it to the nanny state to put the “block” in “sunblock.” Multiple state governments are pursuing bills to let schoolkids apply their SPF-50 without first asking for permission or acquiring a doctor’s note. According to the Wall Street Journal, California, New York, Oregon, and Texas have already passed laws allowing students to bring sunscreen to school and use it. Ten other states have their own measures in the works.

It seems silly that legislatures would need to rock the Banana Boat like this in the first place. But the Food and Drug Administration classifies sunscreen as an over-the-counter medicine, which apparently has put it in a strange regulatory limbo.

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An FDA image promoting sunscreen use

Leave it to the nanny state to put the “block” in “sunblock.” Multiple state governments are pursuing bills to let schoolkids apply their SPF-50 without first asking for permission or acquiring a doctor’s note. According to the Wall Street Journal, California, New York, Oregon, and Texas have already passed laws allowing students to bring sunscreen to school and use it. Ten other states have their own measures in the works.

It seems silly that legislatures would need to rock the Banana Boat like this in the first place. But the Food and Drug Administration classifies sunscreen as an over-the-counter medicine, which apparently has put it in a strange regulatory limbo. How, exactly? Does sunblock’s OTC designation require public schools in 50 states to abide by a certain mandate? Or do some states interpret that classification as a reason to send students to the nurse’s office for fevers and sunburn prevention alike? The Scrapbook asked Doug Farquhar of the National Council of State Legislatures, who was quoted in the Journal story, for his take. He said he had the same questions and asked the FDA. So did we. There was no response as of press time.

There’s irony in how the same agency that urges sunscreen use is unwittingly responsible for restricting it. “Spending time in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging,” reads the warning at FDA.gov. “To reduce this risk, consumers should regularly use sun protection.” But according to consumer data cited by the FDA, “On average, only 10 percent of high school students used sunscreens ‘most of the time’ or ‘always.’ ” This is not to say scores of kids are being denied sunblock on the playground. But the states’ status quo reading of federal regs can’t help.

That may not be such a problem in, say, Minnesota, but what about places where a blazing sun is a constant? Heather Carter is a member of the Arizona state house, where she introduced legislation making it clear kids can carry sunscreen. “It’s crazy,” she told the Arizona Republic. “We’re in Arizona.”

Web Link: http://www.weeklystandard.com/article/2008123

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