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Americans Evenly Divided Over “Sin Tax” on Indoor Tanning

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Skin Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

After bonding with Arizona Senator John McCain over indoor tanning taxes via Twitter, “Jersey Shore” star Snooki has decided to use a spray on tan this season rather than pay the 10 percent surcharge “that Obama put on tanning,” she said.

“@Sn00ki u r right,” the 2008 Republican presidential candidate tweeted on his verified account. “I would never tax your tanning bed! Pres Obama's tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. but I do rec wearing sunscreen!”

The new indoor tanning tax went into effect July 1, 2010 as part of the health care overhaul signed by President Obama in March. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the tax will raise $2.7 billion over 10 years and is projected to help fund the $960 billon health care bill. The 10 percent tanning tax replaced the 5 percent tax on cosmetic surgery that was originally including in the bill.

While Snooki and McCain oppose the tax, a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll released this week (September 2010 edition) found that Americans were nearly evenly split in their opinions about the tanning tax, with opposition holding a five-point lead. Forty-six percent of adults polled said they opposed the surcharge while 41-percent supported the so-called "sin-tax" on the potentially cancer-causing UV rays.

Respondents nationwide were asked if "tanning salons should be taxed like cigarettes and alcohol?" The poll found that older Americans, in general, and adult men made up the majority of the opposition while young people and women favored the tax.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, who supported the tax, indoor tanning before the age of 35 is linked to a 75 percent increase in the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, which has only recently become more common in young females. The National Cancer Institute estimate this year alone, more than 1 million new skin cancer cases will be diagnosed in Americans. Meanwhile, nearly 30 million Americans hit the tanning beds each year and about 2.3 million of these people are teenagers.

An indoor tanning tax “serves as a signal from the federal government to young people that indoor tanning is dangerous and should be avoided,” said Dr. William James, president of the academy.

In addition, because the United States currently spends about $1.8 billion on treating skin cancers each year and $300 million on melanoma alone, the tax will significantly reduce the future costs of treating skin cancers, James added.

In July 2009, The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that it had moved UV tanning beds to its highest cancer risk category – “carcinogenic to humans.” IARC physician Vincent Cogliano called the scientific evidence linking indoor tanning to the increase in melanoma “sufficient and compelling.”

Cogliano said studies conducted over the past decade provide an “an abundance of evidence” that tanning bed use has played a role in the dramatic rise of melanoma cases, especially among young women, along with direct sun exposure. “People mistakenly see a tan as a sign of health when it is actually a sign of damage to the skin,” he said.

Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues, she writes a blog, Nonsmoking Nation, which follows global tobacco news and events.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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