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April 29, 2010


Tanning is a bigger deal than I thought

Kardashian with tanlines

When the healthcare reform bill finally passed, one of the odd things to get thrown in at the last minute was a 10% tax on tanning salon sessions. In an earlier version of the bill, it was only a 5% tax on tanning, with another 5% tax on cosmetic surgery. But in the end, they kept facelifts tax-free and doubled the tanning tax for an estimated 30 million people per year.

This decision made more sense today after I read about a recent, crazy study that Sloan-Kettering did on tanning, which suggests that something like 20% of college students surveyed are actually addicted to tanning. Over half of the kids surveyed have done indoor tanning. Even if you look only at the ones who have tanned, 40% of them are out-of-control tanners.

Somehow I'd never noticed this, but tanning is hugely popular. So clearly, this 10% tax was a wise legislative move. If you tax the hell out of cigarettes and alcohol, and we all keep paying higher and higher prices for them, why not tax something else people are powerless to resist?

Salon owners in the $6 billion industry aren't happy about the tax, of course. Sessions only cost about $7 on average, and I can't see a hardcore tanning addict fussing over 70 cents.

Rick Kueber, founder of Indiana salon Sun Tan City, explains why he thinks the tax is unfair because of its disproportionate effect on one segment of the population: white ladies. "Let's call this what it is. It's a tax on working, white women," he says. He points out that wealthy people enjoy their plastic surgery tax-free, and I think is also strangely implying that those lucky Americans with naturally non-pasty skin are getting a free ride through some sort of melanin tax shelter.

I don't understand tanning at all, but apparently there are other studies out there that suggest the UV rays give tanners an endorphin boost, so maybe the appeal is more psychological than aesthetic. I used to work with a woman who displayed a weird tanning obsession, calling furtively to book sessions whenever she was having a bad day, and she really loved tanning even though her 26 year-old skin had all the suppleness of a Slim Jim.

categories: Business, Culture, Gender, Health, Politics, Race
posted by amy at 5:04 PM | #

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This is a tax on white people. What race do you tink uses tanning beds the most? Go to a tanning salon and count how many brown and black folks you see there.

What if a white president pronounces a tax on doo rags or Sean John clothing? Wopuld that not be percieved as a racial move? Why the free pass to Obama on this??

Posted by: Pahoran at May 4, 2010 9:25 PM

Tanning is an optional activity that everyone knows is unhealthy. You could argue that tanning ultimately increases the cost of health care for everyone due to increased incidence of skin cancer. Just like we tax smoking and drinking, we're also taxing tanning. It's not a tax on a tanner's race, but on his/her unhealthy behavior.

Posted by: amy at May 4, 2010 10:54 PM

I don't get tanning at all either. Hello? You want to look like leather? Uh, and get cancer. OK. I feel like people who purposely get tan are like people who drive hummers--they both just make you look stupid.

Posted by: Leigh at May 20, 2010 10:48 AM

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