Tanning businesses criticize proposed ‘tan tax’

A 10 percent indoor tanning tax is proposed as part of the U.S. Senate’s health care reform bill.

MCTC senior Stephanie Johnson lies in a tanning bed at Darque Tan in Stadium Village on Tuesday. A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services is part of the U.S. Senate’s health care reform proposal.

Joe Michaud-Scorza

MCTC senior Stephanie Johnson lies in a tanning bed at Darque Tan in Stadium Village on Tuesday. A 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services is part of the U.S. Senate’s health care reform proposal.

Katherine Lymn

The tanning industry, already facing a downturn in the recession, may face new problems if a proposed 10 percent indoor tanning tax becomes law.

Industry professionals criticize the tax as a hasty decision that will burden small businesses. As a part of the U.S. SenateâÄôs health care reform bill, the tax was added as a substitute for a 5 percent cosmetic surgery tax. Its purpose is to offset some costs of providing health care to uninsured Americans.

If the tax is approved as part of a final health care bill it will go into effect in July. However, many in the tanning business doubt the validity of the governmentâÄôs prediction that $2.7 billion would be generated over 10 years from the tax.

âÄúI donâÄôt think so,âÄù said John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association. âÄúI just think that numberâÄôs way off.âÄù

This figure does not match up with annual profits of the tanning industry âÄî Americans do not spend that much on tanning annually, Overstreet said. âÄúThese are businesses that are already struggling in a recession,âÄù Overstreet said of what he called an âÄúenormous taxâÄù that was âÄústuck into the [health care] billâÄù after a year-long process.

âÄúIt has a ripple effect in the economy that I honestly donâÄôt think anybody has explored,âÄù

he said. The idea for the tax, which was proposed by the American Academy of Dermatology Association, also aims to limit the risks of UV ray tanning, which can pose health risks. Spray tan services, on the other hand, face no new tax.

Darque Tan, in Stadium Village, sent an e-mail petition to customers in efforts to stop the tax.

âÄúItâÄôs kind of ridiculous,âÄù said art sophomore Ashley Erickson, an employee at Darque Tan. Erickson said she has known cases of beneficial tanning, such as for eye or skin problems, so it is unfair to generalize the practice as a health risk.

âÄúThe only way youâÄôll get those [health] risks is if you do it improperly,âÄù Erickson said, adding that salons serve as moderators of tanning safety.

April Plaisance Grandbouche, executive director of marketing for the tanning and spa business Planet Beach, which has one location in Southeast Como, said the company will consider adding more spray tanning services if the tax is passed.

For now, though, Grandbouche said the company is only monitoring the situation. She said the corporation has received multiple questions from franchisees about the billâÄôs possible effects. The corporation tells the franchisees that âÄúappropriate actionsâÄù will follow if the tax goes into effect.

Grandbouche said itâÄôs hard to tell whether the tax will effectively deter people from tanning, as supporters of the bill hope, or if it will be seen as only an inconvenience to those who continue to tan.