We Are Sunshine

Did Phoenix TV station load the deck in its undercover investigation into tanning salons?

Monday, August 4th, 2008

A Phoenix television news program Thursday alleged that three of five tanning facilities it visited in an undercover-sting story failed to properly check the identification of minors sent in to tan in the salons – even though the salons had policies requiring parental consent.

2008-08-01-sting-story-tanningnews-copy.jpg“That’s an unusually high percentage, even for a sting operation,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “It indicates they may have hand-picked salons they identified beforehand to make the story more sensational. In any event, it certainly isn’t consistent with other independent investigations. Every survey we have ever done shows that an overwhelming majority of salons pass this test.”

An independent study in Colorado three years ago showed that, even in a state with no teenage tanning requirements in its regulations, 95 percent of salons correctly require parental consent. “Dermatologists did this survey to try to prove a point, and they ended up proving the opposite point: That we are doing our job, even when there aren’t formal rules on the books.”

One of the salons in the story replied to the station that it requires consent, but is reviewing its training to make sure employees implement the standard correctly.

Phoenix television station KNXV conducted the sting-story. Smart Tan’s Levy sent the response below to the reporter who wrote the story. The response also appears on-line with the story.

Click here to read the full story.

Here is Levy’s full response:

The indoor tanning community has always supported parental consent for tanners under age 18. It’s just smart business practice. A similar independent study in Colorado three years ago showed that 95 percent of tanning facilities already ask for parental consent – even without that being a state-level regulation.

The professional indoor tanning community encourages clients to look for and demand professionalism in a tanning facility, just as you would in choosing a doctor, hair stylist or any professional service. Part of that professionalism is full-training and commitment to our parental consent standards.

In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that the doctor in this article who advocated scare tactics about UV exposure is playing to misconceptions. Melanoma is increasing in older men – but not in younger women, according to the National Cancer Institute’s own data. In Canada, melanoma incidence and mortality are actually decreasing in young women over the past 20 years. What’s more, we know that melanoma is most common on parts of the body that don’t get regular sunlight and occurs more often in indoor workers than in outdoor workers. That wouldn’t be possible if it had a straightforward relationship with UV light.

There is no data to suggest that tanning in a non-burning fashion is a significant risk factor – a nuance of the message about UV that anti-sun pundits conspicuously leave out of their statements.

That’s a glaring omission in a time when UV light science is swinging back to center. Vitamin D deficiency is common – even in Arizona – thanks to our indoor lifestyles and daily over-use of sunscreen instead of using the product correctly: only to prevent sunburn on occasions when sunburn is possible.

What it all means is that tanning should be enjoyed in intelligent moderation, sunscreen should be used outdoors and that consumers should seek properly trained tanning facilities.

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