A new congressional report out today found that tanning salons say anything to get customers into their beds, but in order to get this valuable information congressional investigators even went so far as to pretending they were pale teenage girls.
The investigative report from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce notes that physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics have already gone on record with their disapproval of children using tanning beds. But when congressional investigators contacted 300 tanning salons nationwide, they identified themselves as "fair-skinned teenage girls" and were told nothing about the physician warnings nor was there much talk about cancer. The report found that salons, well, lied:
- 90 percent of salons stated that indoor tanning did not pose a health risk
Four out of five (78%) of the tanning salons claimed that indoor tanning would be beneficial to the health of a fair-skinned teenage girl. Several salons even said that tanning would prevent cancer. Other health benefits claimed by tanning salons included: Vitamin D production, treatment of depression and low self-esteem, prevention of and treatment for arthritis, weight loss, prevention of osteoporosis, reduction of cellulite, “boost[ing] the immune system,” sleeping better, treating lupus, and improving symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Salons used many approaches to downplay the health risks of indoor tanning. During their calls, Committee investigators representing themselves as fair-skinned teenage girls were told that young people are not at risk for developing skin cancer; that rising rates of skin cancer are linked to increased use of sunscreen; that government regulators had certified the safety of indoor tanning; and that "it’s got to be safe, or else they wouldn’t let us do it."
Lupus? Fibromyalgia? And doesn't some of that speak ("it's gotta be safe...") sound like the "bad" teenagers your parents warned you to stay away from? Anyways, the salons also didn't mention that the risk of skin cancer increases by 75% when use of tanning devices starts before 30 years of age, which the report found.
Of course, there are people upset by this. John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association (yes, this exists), told USA Today that "the folks who inspired this report have been detractors of the industry for a long, long time." Overstreet also mentions that most tanning salons require parental consent and promote moderation. "Kids are more likely to get a sunburn laying in the sun" than at a tanning salon, he said.