Tanning salon owners feel burned amid state tax, law banning minors

Tanning salons in Burbank and Glendale are bracing for the impact of a law that bans minors from using ultraviolet tanning beds.

Previously, teens 14 to 18 could tan in a salon with signed permission from a parent. The new law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, removes that provision, which was established in a state tanning law passed in 1988.

The new law could have far-reaching consequences for local salons.

Joey Ball, owner of Paradise Tanning in Montrose, said teens under 18 make up about 22% of his business.

He also said the veto is a double whammy against tanning salon owners in California, who were already contending with a 10% state tax imposed on them last year.

Still, some operators who saw the writing on the wall say they’ve already been moving in the no-teen direction.

“We don’t do a lot of underage tanning anyway just because we kind of knew this was coming,” said Amanda Medina, owner of Electric Sun Tanning Salon in Burbank. “We’ve been pretty strict about it already.”

Teens can still get a spray tan, but Medina said that at $40 a visit, it’s not economically feasible for most kids in high school. She said teens are more inclined to purchase a spray tan for special occasions, such as prom or graduation.

Medina, who has owned the salon for 10 years, said only about 20 of her customers are under 18.

The tanning industry as a whole has taken a hit during the economic downturn, she said.

Ball said he has closed three of his salons in the past year, primarily because of the state tax, which strangled his profits that run at a margin of between 15% and 20%.

“They take 10% right off the top,” he said.

His Montrose salon is surviving, Ball said, adding that the number of customers under 18 is higher than average because it’s in an affluent area with more discretionary income.

Ball also usually supports the two local high schools with their fundraising efforts because it draws more teens into his salon, but those sponsorships no longer make sense, he said.

Dan Rounds, owner of Tan Lines in Burbank, said that while the new legislation shouldn’t hurt his bottom line too much, he’s more concerned about how the new law will impact individual rights down the road.

“What other rights are they going to start taking away?” he said.

The legislation bans minors from using a tanning bed, but dermatologists can still use the same technology to treat certain non-life-threatening conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, Rounds said.

He also wondered why the legislation was necessary when teens under 18 can still go to the ocean, a pool or sun deck to get a tan on a sunny afternoon.

Ball said the legislation takes teens out of a controlled tanning environment and puts them into one where they can lay out in the sun as long as they want and burn, causing more skin damage.


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