Tanning Beds, Addiction, and Taxes

A new study in this month’s Archives of Dermatology suggests that indoor tanning can be addicting in young adults (study) (1).  While the study was relatively small, with just over 400 participants surveyed, the results seem to bolster the need for moves toward greater regulation of the indoor tanning industry, especially through policies that curtail use by youth (related post).

The release of the study seems particularly well timed with the signing of the new health care reform bill, which institutes a 10 percent tax on all indoor UV tanning services (related post).  Raising the price point of risky items has proved a particularly effective approach in limiting certain high risk behaviors in youth.  The classic example of this is tobacco (study) (2).  As excise taxes on – and therefore the prices of – cigarettes go up, the use of cigarettes by youth go down.  Keeping smoking rates low in youth means fewer will go on to develop lifelong smoking habits.

Though tanning bed use is not as destructive, nor likely as addictive, as tobacco use, it is an activity that can have serious lifelong consequences.  Much of the melanoma (and other skin cancer) risk related to UV exposure comes  from unprotected exposure in youth and young adulthood.  Taking a cue from the tobacco control playbook and raising the cost of tanning should help a good percentage of young people decide that it’s just not worth it.  And they’d be right.

Related CNiC posts
Health Care Reform and Prevention of Cancer – April 7, 2008
More Blistering Truths About Tanning Bed Use by Youths – April 5, 2008 

Related media
Washington Post: Tanning beds may get closer scrutiny based on findings about skin cancer risk – April 20, 2010

Literature cited

  1. Mosher, C., Addiction to Indoor Tanning: Relation to Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Abuse. Arch Dermatol, 2010. 146(4): p. 412-417.
  2. Liang, L., et al., Prices, policies and youth smoking, May 2001. Addiction, 2003. 98 Suppl 1: p. 105-22.

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