Tanning tax gets partly sunny reaction

A 10% tanning bed tax hasn't deterred people with a hankering for golden-brown skin, salon owners said, but it is changing how they go about getting it.

Passed in December as part of the federal government's health-care-reform act, the indoor sun bed tanning tax went into effect on July 1. It is expected the bring in $2.7 billion during the next 10 years, according to an estimate by the U.S Congress Joint Committee on Taxation.

Tanning has come under increasing scrutiny, as medical research shows a direct link between sun exposure and skin cancer. There is a 75% increased risk for melanoma for those who use tanning beds in their teens and young adulthood, according to the World Health Organization.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has deemed the UV radiation emitted by tanning beds to be a known carcinogen. And the Food and Drug Administration has attributed 3,000 annual emergency room visits to indoor tanning.

The tanning bed tax has generated a lot of buzz among tanning-bed manufacturers, salon owners and customers. Don Feltham, chief financial officer of JK Products, a large manufacturer of indoor tanning equipment, said the tax is unfair and will hurt thousands of small businesses already squeezed by the economic recession.

Some players in the tanning industry do not think the tax is all bad news, however. Tatiyana Bagham, owner of What A Tan! in La Cañada Flintridge, said the tax has shed light on some of the health benefits of tanning beds, including treating Vitamin D deficiencies, osteoporosis and bone diseases.

In addition, it has prompted customers who are tanning for purely aesthetic purposes to explore other options, namely spray-on tans, Bagham said. Last month, she was featured on a VH1 segment spraying tanning some young customers.

"I have gained a lot of business from that," Bagham said. "As a matter of fact, almost all of my tanning customers are converting to the airbrush tanning."

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