Politics & Fashion: The Future of the Tanning Industry

Tanning has always been a way to get an even glow, but normal tanning leaves awkward tan lines. Tanning beds help fashionistas look good in strappy black dress designs without revealing tan lines, but the way people view tanning beds is changing.

The Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare," created a 10 percent excise tax on all indoor tanning services starting in July 2010. The tax garnered reactions from all corners, including Jersey Shore star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, who accused President Barack Obama of targeting the show's cast.
tanning bed

Chapter 49, Sec. 5000B of Obamacare was implemented to discourage indoor tanning due to melanoma risks, and to help pay for the $1 trillion bill. Though operators have complained about the tax, 78 percent of salon owners said their clients were undeterred by it, according to a Northwestern University School of Medicine survey. The industry still faces several obstacles, as legislators continue to wage a war similar to that against tobacco and other cancer-causing agents.
Salon Operators Coming Together
The Indoor Tanning Association (ITA) was formed in 1999 to represent thousands of salon owners across the country and "protect the freedom of individuals to acquire a tan." The American Suntanning Association was formed last year with the goal of playing a lead role in scientific research on suntanning, according to their website. The latter group says it also wants to fight all the misinformation being disseminated about the industry.

Despite the added pressures, it's still relatively simple to open a tanning salon. Still, many are hesitant because of the recent backlash. Industry groups are also imposing more self-regulations to combat the growing stigma associated with artificial tanning and owning a salon.
Minors Prohibited
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation this past July which prohibits anyone under age 17 from using indoor tanning services without parental consent. California Governor Jerry Brown signed similar legislation in 2012, as did legislators in Vermont and the city of Chicago. There are at least 30 states total that have some sort of restrictions on teenagers tanning, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. The subject of minors using tanning beds got national attention when 44-year-old Patricia Krentcil was arrested last April for taking her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth with her.
Though salon owners claim otherwise, bans on teen tanning ultimately will take a toll on business in the aforementioned states. 37 percent of white females and 11 percent of white males between the ages of 13 and 19 say they use or would like to use tanning booths, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Tanorexia: The Addiction
Tanorexia, a term for tanning addiction, is becoming more common. Though the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not mention tanorexia, an article in the 2005 Archives of Dermatology made the case for UV rays being just as addictive as some controlled substances. The light can affect your mood, and will thus cause withdrawals when the tanning stops.

Government intervention and excessive regulation have destroyed some industries. Fisheries in New England are going bankrupt due to new catch limitations; and establishments that sell or cater to tobacco users have suffered due to smoking bans. The tanning crowd, however, is passionate about their pigment. The new tax has not slowed the industry much at all.

Where do you stand on tanning? Fashionable or faux pas? We'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Stephanie is a freelance writer and hair stylist who resides in New Mexico.
Tanning bed photo from Flickr user Travel Salem.

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