The Ten Percent Tax on Tanning Beds Could Save Lives

The new federal law taxing individuals who use tanning salons went into effect on July 1.  This may discourage people from using tanning beds, which greatly increase a person's risk of developing skin cancer.

A new study shows that indoor ultraviolet (UV) 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.  According to the study, the type of tanning machine used affects melanoma risk - some tanners were 4.44 times as likely as non-tanners to develop melanoma.

Recently the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), affiliated with the World Health Organization, moved tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category, labeling them "carcinogenic to humans." This ranking puts tanning beds alongside other cancer-causing agents such as asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.

"Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that for every ten percent price increase, cigarette consumption drops by three to four percent among adults and six to eight percent among young people," said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. "We hope this tax will have the same effect on tanning bed use."

On an average day, more than one million Americans use tanning salons. Not only does tanning bed use greatly increase the risk of developing melanoma, but indoor tanners are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, the two most common forms of skin cancer.

The tanning tax is only one step in the fight against tanning beds. In the US, California, Texas and at least 29 other states have passed their own legislation restricting use of tanning facilities by minors.  The US Food and Drug Administration is considering enacting stricter regulations on tanning beds including a possible ban on use by minors.

In January, the Indoor Tanning Association agreed to a settlement, after the Federal Trade Commission alleged that the association launched a misleading advertising campaign designed to portray indoor tanning as safe and beneficial.  As part of the settlement the association must feature disclaimers in future advertisements, disclosing that indoor tanning may cause skin cancer.  The settlement order was approved in May.