When should people intervene to stop the potentially destructive behavior of another? A New Jersey situation raises that delicate question — on two levels.
The story involves a mother, Patricia Krentcil, who was arrested and charged with second-degree child endangerment. Police claim that she took her fair-skinned, red-haired five-year-old daughter to a tanning parlor, exposed her to a tanning bed, and gave the girl a sunburn as a result. Krentcil denies the charge and says the child got the sunburn playing outside on a warm day. She says she brings her daughter with her to the tanning parlor, but the girl waits nearby while only Krentcil gets into the tanning bed. She suspects that a teacher overheard her five-year-old say that she went to the tanning parlor and reached the wrong conclusion.
In my view, it’s hard to justify the state arresting and charging a mother with child endangerment under such circumstances, which apparently involves just one incident, no pattern of behavior, and a condition — a child’s sunburn — that has an entirely plausible, innocent explanation.
But look at the picture of Ms. Krentcil. She admits to excessive tanning, and judging from the grotesque, leathery appearance of her skin, perhaps she even has an addiction to it. How can the tanning parlor, to say nothing of her husband and her family, continue to allow her to expose herself to UV rays under such circumstances? Shouldn’t tanning parlor attendants, like bartenders, have an obligation to cut people off when they’ve had enough?
Businesses often complain about “unnecessary” government regulations, but businesses can be as responsible for regulatory overload as overzealous bureaucrats. If New Jersey tanning parlors are fine with taking money from misguided folks and then allowing them to tan, tan, tan until they look like an old shoe at the back of the closet, the tanning parlors shouldn’t be heard to complain when the state decides it needs to step in.