By Marisa Patwa ’12 & Maria Paskell ’11
Many high school students might soon walk into their favorite tanning salon and find their wallets thinner when they leave. On July 1, a new federal tax of 10 percent will be added whenever anyone uses electronic products with ultraviolet wavelengths between 200 and 400 nanometers, a measure designed to target tanning booths. The tax was levied in part to fund healthcare reforms passed earlier this year. The increase has caused outrage in the tanning community and support from the medical community.
According to the March 24 Columbus Dispatch article titled, “Industry Feels Burned By Tax,” by Tim Feran, the government expects the tax will generate $3 billion to help pay for the $940 billon health care overhaul. Tanning salon owners, however, are outraged by this tax, which would hinder their businesses.
Carla Plazas, owner of New Life Tanning in Columbus, is one such salon owner who is upset by the new tax. Plazas said she believes that this is an unfair tax imposed by the government and that it will affect her business considerably.
“To have the government come in and just non-discriminately give us another tax like this is just one more blow,” Plazas said. “It is one more thing hurting our American dream.”
Regardless of the bill’s intent, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, an organization dedicated to prevention of skin cancer, tanning beds are a probable cause for skin cancer; with the passage of this tax, it is believed that many lives could be saved from tanning-related skin cancer. Dr. Kari Kendra, a researcher at The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center said the primary problem is that people are ignorant about tanning and do not realize how powerful tanning bed bulbs are.
“Ultraviolet radiation from a tanning bed is more intense than direct sun rays on the equator,” Kendra said. “Prolonged exposure to UV rays is thought to cause melanoma, [a form of skin cancer].”
Kendra said that as tanning becomes more popular with young adults, more of these people are being affected with cancer.
“Many young people don’t see the need for protection of their skin,” Kendra said. “Before, people in their 40s were coming in. Now we’re seeing 15-year-olds with melanoma.”
Senior Abby Brown said she is not a frequent tanner, but does tan occasionally before a school dance to look nice. She said she believes tanning is just as bad as laying out in the sun, but she does it anyway, as she believes it will not harm her if she only tans occasionally. However, she is very displeased with the new tanning tax and said that this will affect her tanning decisions in the future.
“I probably won’t tan again once the law is official,” Brown said.
Cosmopolitan magazine launched a Safe Sun campaign in 2006 with the hopes of teaching young women about the dangers of tanning and educating them on safer ways to tan. In Hallie Sklar’s article, “Little Mistakes That Harm Your Skin,” from the June 2010 issue, she interviewed Stanley J. Miller, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University. Miller came up with five central mistakes that women make when it comes to taking care of their skin.
These mistakes include using moisturizer instead of sunscreen and not checking whether or not there is a family history of skin cancer. Miller also cites placing too much trust in sun screen, working outdoors in the sun while forgetting to wear any sunscreen at all and thinking that darker skin is safe from skin cancer as factors that can contribute to unintentionally acquiring skin cancer, as well.
Although Congress’s main goal is to help pay for the healthcare overhaul, according to the article by Feran, Dr. Bruce Katz, clinical professor of Dermatology at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine agreed with Miller and said he is also supportive of the tax.
“I hope the tax will serve a double purpose,” Dr. Katz said. “Not only raising billions for health care, but giving people one more reason to protect their health by staying away from tanning salons.”