COLUMBIA — Beginning Thursday, it will cost customers 10 percent more to use tanning beds.
The so-called "tanning tax" is the first provision to take effect in the federal Health Care Reform Bill that passed in March.
The tax on tanning services will help fund $2.7 billion of the total $940 billion cost of the health care bill, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
It applies to tanning beds that use one or more ultraviolet lamps with wavelengths between 200 to 400 nanometers. Not included are spray tans, tanning lotions and other sunless tanning options.
Although tanning salon owners and customers have opposed the tax as a deterrent to business, strong support has come from dermatologists who cite a link between cancer and tanning beds.
“The FDA has called UV light a carcinogen since 2002,” Edison said. “There is no such thing as a safe tan.”
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, ultraviolet radiation levels for indoor tanning devices can be 15 times greater than tanning outdoors. At the current rate, according to the association, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer.
Edison said she is concerned about the increase in skin cancer, especially melanoma, and premature aging of the skin in young women.
“We know that nearly 70 percent of those who go to tanning beds are women 16 to 29 years old,” she said. “I am seeing skin cancer in younger girls.”
John DeSpain, a dermatologist with the DeSpain Cayce Dermatology Center and Medical Spa in Columbia, also said he supports the tanning tax.
“I see people every day with skin cancer, some most likely from tanning beds,” he said. “Tanning beds cause health problems.”
Tanning salon owners, many of them women who own small businesses, worry that it will discourage customers.
Melanie Karrick, who owns Key Largo Fitness and Tanning, said she objects to the tax, although she does not yet know how it will affect her business.
“I have held my prices for many years,” she said. “It doesn’t help business owners or the customer. A 10 percent increase is very high.”
Rick Mount, owner of Profiles Tanning Salon on Vandiver Drive, said he has no official information about the tax.
“I have received zero paperwork,” Mount said. “All I know is that it is a 10 percent increase. I don’t know if it is just for packages or retail.”
He predicted that loyal customers will continue to tan because the tax is universally distributed.
“If people are going to tan, it’s not going to make a difference,” he said. “All companies are going to have the same tax.
Denise Hooton, of Columbia, who tans at Catch-A-Tan on Vandiver Drive, said the tax will not prevent her from continuing to tan.
“I don’t think it will affect my tanning, but I think it’s expensive enough as it is. I don’t think (tanning salons) need a tax,” Hooton said.
Gretchen Winkelmeyer, a junior at MU and indoor tanner at Pacific Beach Tanning Studios on Grindstone Parkway, also said she is not bothered by the tax.
“I think the tax makes a lot of sense since it is going towards health care,” said Winkelmeyer, who said she tans infrequently to avoid health risks. “I go into tanning knowing that it can cause cancer.”