In 2009, the World Health Organization reported that regular indoor tanning before age 30 increases the risk of melanoma — one of the fastest-growing rates of cancer by 75 percent. Facing criticism and increasing state restrictions on youth tanning, the $4.8 billion tanning industry is pursuing a misinformation strategy borrowed from the tobacco industry, according to a report from Bridget Huber at FairWarning.
The International Smart Tan Network has created a training video for salons with instructions to undermine medical consensus. The report chronicles the tanning industry’s campaign, which provides salon employees talking points that tanning is good for you:
At the heart of the industry’s message is the idea that tanning critics such as dermatologists, sunscreen manufacturers and even charities like the American Cancer Society are part of a profit-driven conspiracy. These critics are described as a “Sun Scare industry” that aims to frighten the public into avoiding all exposure to UV light. The tanning industry blames this group for causing what it calls a deadly epidemic of vitamin D deficiency, and tries to position itself as a more trustworthy source of information on tanning’s health effects.
Pointing to tanning as a solution to a “vitamin D deficiency epidemic,” the video echoes early tobacco company efforts to confuse the public on carcinogenic risks. Smart Tan’s misleading training video, bizarrely enough, actually casts health professionals in the same light as Big Tobacco — as villians “lying for money and killing people.”
This is the latest of the embattled tanning industry’s quiet efforts to draw in more business and prevent further regulation. As more states place age restrictions on tanning salons, the industry has stepped up its political efforts, by sending an increasing amount of campaign contributions to federal lawmakers, and employing lobbyists at the state level.