Now at a Tanning Salon Near You

A little known provision of the health care reform bill (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) kicks in July 1 – a 10% tax on tanning salons. Needless to say, the tanning industry is up in arms over this “sin tax,” claiming that it’s going to put many small salon owners out of business. The American Academy of Dermatology helped to slip this provisionin (see page 902 of the law) in lieu of a 5 percent tax on botox and other cosmetic procedures.

We all know how prevalent skin cancer has become. Yet the AAD says that a million people a day – especially younger women – continue to flock to tanning salons under a misguided notion that it’s somehow “safer” than being outdoors. Not.

The use of indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 has been associated with a significant increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer”
–       American Academy of Dermatology

The new tax should generate an estimated $2.7 billion over the next 10 years, which will help fund health reform. Of course, tanning industry executives and salon owners feel unfairly singled out. They argue that many businesses will have to close because of the increased financial burden or that they will lose business if the tax is passed on to customers.

The Indoor Tanning Association, a consortium of of indoor tanning manufacturers, distributors, facility owners, and members from other support industries, says the provision “harm thousands of small businesses and affect millions of consumers, mostly working and middleclass women.” They are calling on their members and customers to urge the President and Congress to “repeal this regressive and punitive tax”.

However, the Skin Cancer Foundation argues that the indoor tanning tax will reduce exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and save countless lives. A 2009 report by the Foundation, developed in cooperation with The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), noted that “UVR produced by tanning beds among the most dangerous forms of radiation for humans, alongside other forms including radon and plutonium as well as solar UVR.” Tanning bed users are also more likely to develop basal cell or squamous cell forms of skin cancer. With 30 million people in the US– including 2.3 million teens – using tanning beds annually, that’s a lot of disease that can be prevented and lives than can be saved.

Since skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, it seems as if there should be plenty of support for less UVR exposure. Yet some salon customers say it’s not the golden look they’re going for, but the exposure to Vitamin D. They argue that it can be difficult to get outdoors during daylight to get the recommended daily allotment. And others say that even with the tax, which will likely amount to just a few dollars per person, they have no intention of changing their habits because it makes them look and feel better.

The tax does not apply to phototherapy services performed by a licensed medical professional on his or her premise. And, in one good piece of news for salons, spray tans remain non-taxable.

What’s your take on this tax? Is it unfair, or will it bring more attention to the dangers of indoor tanning? Are you an indoor tanner? Join the discussion.

In a related issue, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) just published their list of the best and worst sunscreens. They analyzed over 500 products but only recommend a handful – most did not live up to their hype or packaging.

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2 comments on “Now at a Tanning Salon Near You
  1. I read in Newsday the other day about how some sunscreens contain Oxybenzone, which has been shown to cause skin cancer — the exact thing that sunscreen users are trying to avoid! My kids and I checked all our sunscreen bottles, and sure enough they all contained Oxybenzone. We threw them out and got Oxybenzone-free replacements. Scary!

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