Managers at London’s tanning salons feel burned over the new 10 percent tanning tax, which went into effect July 1.
“We think it’s awful,” Exotic Tan Manager Maggie Lewis said. “All my customers are really complaining about it. They feel it’s ... a tax they were promised wouldn’t be put on the middle class.”
Sarah Lambdin, manager at No Clouds Allowed, said her customers feel the same way.
“They don’t think it’s fair,” she said. “They think it’s ridiculous and I agree with them. There’s no point to it.”
Habitual sun worshipper Mae Lorman, who spends about $200 a year on indoor tanning, agreed.
“I think they get enough of our money,” she said of the government. “I’ll still come as often as I do, but I don’t like paying all them taxes.”
The excise tax, which is a tax measured by the amount of business done, relates to indoor tanning services only. Related lotions, beauty products and goggles, as well as spray tanning services, are not subject to it.
At Exotic Tan, the tax means customers will now pay $42.90 for a 15-visit package. They used to pay $39.
The tax is one of the first measures to be enacted as part of the new health reform bill. The measure was added in late December after lawmakers removed the proposal to tax elective cosmetic procedures like Botox and breast implants. During the next 10 years, it is believed the tax will raise $2.7 billion.
While tanning salon owners feel singed by the move, The Skin Cancer Foundation firmly supports it.
“Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that for every 10 percent price increase, cigarette consumption drops by 3 to 4 percent among adults and 6 to 8 percent among young people,” President Perry Robins said. “We hope this tax will have the same effect on tanning bed use.”
Fewer indoor tanners means a decrease in skin cancer, Skin Cancer Foundation officials contend. Statistics released by the foundation show indoor ultraviolet tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. The more time a person has spent tanning indoors, the higher the odds of developing the disease.
Dr. Indira Moodumane, a pediatrician at Parkway Pediatrics, is also in favor of the tax.
“(Tanning) is almost like smoking, it is so injurious to the body,” she said. “It may seem cool, but in the long run it is very harmful for the body. The more time you spend on the tanning bed, it has an accumulative effect on the skin. With skin cancer, the mortality is pretty high, especially if you don’t take care of it in the early stages.”
Lorman doesn’t buy it.
“I’m not afraid of getting cancer down the road,” she said. “That’s God’s choice. My cousin got cancer and it wasn’t from the tanning booth. It was laying out in the sun a long time ago.”
Lewis also objects to the belief that indoor tanning causes skin cancer.
“I feel it’s overblown,” she said. “Tanning is just like anything else. You do it in moderation. ... It’s like anything: You can use it or abuse it.”
Lewis claimed tanning indoors results in the body absorbing higher levels of vitamin D, which helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
“You get more vitamin D out of a 20-minute tanning session than you would out of a whole bottle of vitamin D tablets,” she said.
Moodumane disputed the claim.
“Your skin can only take in so much in that particular time,” she said. “It is so easy to get vitamin D from limited sun exposure. Any of those ultraviolet rays, they give the vitamin D but that is not a healthy way of getting it.”
Administrators with the Kentucky Dermatology and Skin Cancer Clinic, whose physicians practice in London, would not comment on the tanning tax or the link between tanning and skin cancer. Requests for comment from the Commonwealth Cancer Center were likewise declined.
While managers said they are angry about the tax, they do feel customers will pay it.
“It’s kind of like gas,” Lambdin said. “When gas prices go up, they don’t say anything about it. People can gripe, but there’s nothing you can really do about it.”
While people are angry, Lambdin said they are not taking it out on the tanning salons themselves.
“So far, everybody has been very cooperative with it,” she said. “They realize that it’s not our fault ... They’ve been very kind to us. However, talking about the government, that’s another thing.”
As for future legislation, the Food and Drug Administration is considering new restrictions, which could prohibit minors from tanning indoors. Of the 28 million people who tan indoors every year, nearly three quarters of them are women between ages 16 and 29, according to the Journal of American Dermatology.
Lambdin fumes at the thought of the proposed restrictions.
“How can you do that and go and let them be a lifeguard?” she said. “At least when you’re in a tanning salon you can control the UV output you’re getting. When you’re outside, you can’t. They just need to stop and let our industry talk more because no one wants to listen to what we have to say.”
Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.