We Are Sunshine

HEADLINE STORY: ABC News indoor tanning hidden camera report was more myopic than 20/20

Monday, December 7th, 2009

DEC. 7, 2009 — ABC News “20/20” program on Friday teamed up with Cosmopolitan Magazine on a 7-minute segment designed to support Cosmo’s stated goal of discouraging indoor tanning usage, but which many observers in the tanning market feel fell short of making a convincing case.

2009-12-07-20-20-copy.jpgThe point of doing a hidden camera expose was to attempt to catch tanning operators making unsupportable claims, and most of the statements made by operators in the story were actually rather unremarkable. Essentially, some operators in the hidden camera report pointed out that:

  • UVB makes vitamin D, which is completely true.
  • Tanning in a non-burning fashion isn’t something anyone should worry about.

“What ABC failed to report was this: a tanning salon operator — giving a less-than-perfect answer downplaying the risk of overexposure to a reporter asking persistent questions designed to generate those answers — is still much more accurate than what dermatologists and chemical sunscreen manufacturers mis-state: that any UV exposure is damaging,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. “The dermatologist alleging that any expose to UV is damage is the real mis-statement in this story.”

It isn’t clear whether or not ABC’s reporter actually tanned in the salon. If she did, she would have been properly exposed to consumer warnings twice — once when signing the informed consent form and once while being introduced to the equipment.

The report also alleged that operators should not exceed recommended incremental exposure times on a tanning unit — failing to point out that tanning exposure schedules have two categories:

Recommended incremental exposure times: These are conservative guidelines that a trained operator uses to assign incremental exposure times for tanners that can lead up to a unit’s maximum time. Incremental times were never intended to be used as absolutes — they were not designed that way — and it is widely recognized that they are overly conservative.

Maximum exposure times: A unit’s maximum exposure time IS an absolute that is never exceeded, and no tanner in the 20/20 segment was ever permitted to exceed this.

Smart Tan sent a full breakdown of the report and how salon operators should respond to questions about it in an e-mail sent to members Saturday morning. Members who did not receive the advisory should call Smart Tan at 800-652-3269 or Smart Tan Canada at 866-795-3755.