Commentary - In defense of tanning taxI am writing in defense of the “tanning tax.” This new tax does target tanning businesses similarly to other government taxes in the tobacco industry. Both industries cause disease and death to those who use them, thus adding to the healthcare burden on all of us.
By Rachel Schuneman, M.D., dermatologist at CentraCare Plaza (St. Cloud) and Broadway Medical Center (Alexandria)
I am writing in defense of the “tanning tax.” This new tax does target tanning businesses similarly to other government taxes in the tobacco industry. Both industries cause disease and death to those who use them, thus adding to the healthcare burden on all of us. I can only hope that the added tax will cut down the numbers of indoor tanners as the cigarette taxes have decreased the number of smokers because of the financial burden.
We know that if a person has their first exposure to indoor tanning beds before the age of 18 their risk of melanoma goes up 75 percent. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, causing nearly 8,650 deaths per year in the United States. One person dies every 62 minutes in the United States from melanoma.
People using tanning beds have 2.5 times more risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma and a 1.5 times risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. This is why UVR from tanning beds is a proven human carcinogen, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In regards to Vitamin D levels, unfortunately, Ms. Kuhlman and many in the tanning industry continue their false claims that tanning beds raise levels of Vitamin D. Tanning beds emit approximately 95 percent UVA rays but it is UVB rays that stimulate the production of Vitamin D in the skin; thus tanning beds are ineffective in raising Vitamin D levels. These more broad spectrum rays are found in natural sunlight but only require a maximum of 15-20 minutes daily exposure to the hands and face. Moreover, Vitamin D supplements are fairly inexpensive, easy to find and can be taken year round (no need to drink two gallons of milk daily).
Tanning bed exposure has also been found to be addictive. In a survey conducted by the University of Washington, 18 percent of youth met positive addiction criteria when discussing their tanning habits. This survey used similar testing methods to those used when detecting alcohol and smoking addiction.
The indoor tanning bed industry has an annual estimated revenue of $5 billion so there is a lot of money at stake. It is no wonder that people in the business are up in arms about this new tax and continue to try and promote the concept of a “healthy tan,” when actually there is no such thing as a healthy tan. Tan skin means damaged skin. The Minnesota Dermatologic Society is working very hard with our state lawmakers to require parental consent for those individuals under the age of 18 to use tanning beds.
As a dermatologist I am amazed at the number of young and old patients I have had to give the bad news to that they have melanoma. These patients require large surgeries, possible lymph node removal and chemotherapy, an increase in their insurance premiums and most importantly a possible decrease in their life span. If you are using indoor tanning beds, please stop and please don’t allow your children to start.