Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tanning salon owner burned over new tax

Thursday, July 1, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The summer heat is turning up on tanning salons.

Today, a national 10 percent tax begins on ultraviolet indoor tanning services to help pay for implementation of the Healthcare Reform Act.

The tax begins two days after the Pennsylvania Senate approved a bill intended to improve safety at tanning salons and requiring parental consent for minors. The bill now heads to the House.

"My opinion is quite obvious," said Jeff Magnotti, owner of Oakland Oasis Tanning Salon in Oakland, about the nationwide tax. "It's terrible.

"Terrible because it's a health bill issue and there are so many other issues we should be worried about. Indoor tanning is actually safer than outdoor tanning, but it has developed a bad reputation, and that's why I think this is absolutely terrible."

However, both measures represent a triumph for dermatologists who have lobbied for years to impose regulations on services they believe increase peoples' risk of developing skin cancer.

"I do believe this tax will be a deterrent," said Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and media spokeswoman for the American Academy of Dermatology. "But there still needs to be legislation in every state to prevent minors from using these destructive devices."

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the tax on tanning salons will bring in about $2.5 billion over the next decade. Spray tans, a popular service by tanning salons that does not involve UV light, will not be included in the tax.

In Pennsylvania, the Indoor Tanning Regulation Act would require that each customer receive a written warning statement that must be signed before initial exposure, that operators maintain records of customer visits for three years, and that minors between 14 and 18 be accompanied by a parent or guardian to sign a warning statement.

Those younger than 14 would be required to have written permission from a physician to use UV tanning services.

In addition, operators would need to complete a training program and owners and managers would need to pass a certification exam before operating a facility or training employees.

"Medical studies continue to show that early and excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation, from the sun or artificial sources, greatly increases the likelihood of skin cancer in later years," said state Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh. "This legislation enacts common sense guidelines."

Mr. Magnotti, who has owned Oakland Oasis for more than 11 years, has a different view.

"When you tan indoors, you control it," he said. "You know exactly how long you're going for, every time. Outside, you have to know the pollution index, where the clouds are at, and when you're on vacation, thinking 'Wow, I got a lot of sun.' Well, that's not usually good."

Jillian Lyons, manager of Hollywood Tans in Shadyside, said that six long-standing customers already have canceled in light of the new tax and that the salon urged customers to "beat the tan tax" by purchasing packages before today.

"I personally do agree with [the tax]," Ms. Lyons said, "because it's a person's choice and unneccessary. But I don't think it's going to hurt [business] that much because people that tan are already interested in it."

Christie Incorvati, 24, a frequent customer at Oakland Oasis, called the tax "fair because they also tax cigarettes, which cause cancer." She said the tax would not stop her from tanning at salons.

Operators at both salons said they have no immediate plans to raise prices. They also said the timing of the tax -- in the summer and months away from the peak fall and winter business -- may help.

Still, Mr. Magnotti believes small businesses will feel the effect.

"Between the bad reputation for tanning and the tax, it will be tough on owners like myself," he said. "It's not going to kill my business, but it will definitely put some kind of strain on it."

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