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Health care reform includes 10 percent tax on tanning

March 25, 2010

Bronze Bay Tanning employees, biology freshman Aspen Stanton, left center, and psychology senior Gwen Jaede, talk to two customers, human biology sophomore Laura Leslie, far left, and political science freshman Ferrin Lovely, at Bronze Bay Tanning, 109 E. Grand River Ave. Salon owner Sarah Munkacsy is afraid the new tax on tanning will affect business, with 98 percent of her customers being students.

Photo by Lauren Wood | The State News

The indoor tanning industry might need some aloe for the burn of a 10 percent tax on the service included in the nation’s health care overhaul.

The provision, which has ignited the tanning industry’s ire in what it considers an unfair and targeted tax, will raise about $2.7 billion throughout 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Sarah Munkacsy, owner of Bronze Bay Tanning, 109 and 617 E. Grand River Ave., said the tanning industry was hindered by not having a strong Washington, D.C., lobby, which left the business susceptible to the tax that will take effect July 1.

“There are other things that can be seen as a carcinogen, so why weren’t they singled out?” she said.

But Kristen McAlpine, an education senior, said the tax made sense considering other elective activities detrimental to personal health — such as cigarettes and alcohol — already are taxed.

“I can see that as a logical reason to tax it and be like, ‘You know, if we’re going to be paying for health care and putting money toward it, we don’t want to spend more money when you all are making yourself sick,’” McAlpine said.

Munkacsy said many of her customers come for ultraviolet, or UV, ray treatment of skin disorders — which she says is less expensive at her establishment than seeing a dermatologist — and for a dose of vitamin D.

Michelle Randall, a pediatrician dermatologist at Messenger Dermatology, 1515 Lake Lansing Road, in Lansing, said eating vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk and yogurt can replace the UV rays at tanning salons. She also said the lower-grade UV bands at such places do not synthesize vitamin D as well as natural sunlight.

Although Randall said using UV rays for treating skin disorders is legitimate, many who use indoor tanning do not go for such practices and possibly use the service too frequently.

“The risk of skin cancer increases if you’ve experienced any indoor tanning,” she said. “It’s all cumulative, so over your lifetime the amount of UV rays you get … definitely increases your risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma.”

Munkacsy said she will have to pass the cost onto the customer when the tax takes effect July 1.

She said her business already is down 25 percent to 30 percent, and she worries financially feeble college students won’t be able to stomach the price increase.

Munkacsy might not have a reason to be concerned, though. When Lindsay Yax, a special education junior, calculated the tax into her monthly tanning expenses, she discovered it raised the total by $2 and said it will not deter her from the tanning bed.

“It’s just a bummer that I’ll have to pay more,” she said. “But it won’t be that bad then.”

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