Apparently, a hot topic of the new decade – pun entirely intended – it the matter of taxing “indoor tanning beds.” Indoor tanning beds seem to be the issue principally because no living human being has ever actually seen an outdoor tanning bed if simple lawn chairs and blankets on the beach are subtracted from the discussion. I regret having missed this lively debate so far, but being totally ignorant of the arguments will certainly not keep me from weighing in. The U.S. Senate, which is considering an excise tax on artificial tanning, must reflect the will of the potentially burnt.
Should artificial tanning beds be taxed – or taxed more…are they actually taxed at some higher than ordinary retail rate now? Who knows? But I say, YES, tax them into non-existence if necessary for several reasons:
First, applying an ordinary citizen’s test to the matter, I discover that I do not personally use artificial tanning beds at all, so this would mean that someone else will be taxed in this regard, should the “argument for” prevail. That is, a tax on someone else is the very best tax – indeed, by definition, the “most just” tax – imaginable.
Second, in July of last year, the World Health Organization declared that “significant and compelling” evidence exists that UV tanning beds are “carcinogenic to humans,” which is properly considered the “highest cancer risk category.” This would seem to belabor the obvious as nobody seems in danger of excessive worry about squirrel cancer, but the WHO did note some alarming trends. According to Salynn Boyles, a WebMD writer, “Beginning in the early 1990s, a particularly dramatic increase was seen in thicker and more lethal melanoma lesions, leading the researchers to conclude that tanning has probably played a significant role in this increase.” Additionally, she notes, “About 62,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the U.S. and about 8,000 people died of the disease in 2008….” So let’s put it this way: what’s good for tobacco is good for tanning beds.
Next, as one of my students pointed out in a rather good research paper this past semester, patrons of tanning salons tend to be, disproportionately, teen-age girls. Without this paper at hand to refer to, I seem to recall this student establishing that an alarming number of teen girls use tanning equipment several times a week. So: who wants to bury Julie on her twentieth birthday? Julie, Chelsea, Nicole, Isabel, Cassie and Mackenzie need to be saved from themselves. A tax would provide the equivalent of a societal “intervention.” (I sense the crassmeisters at Fox scribbling notes here for a new show. What could be better as “entertainment” than weeping, bronzed, teen-aged girls?) Of course, a teen-ager without money in her pocketbook tends to be an unhappy teen-ager, but at least she will still be living one.
Finally, there is the aesthetic argument. People, everybody find your copy of L.A. Confidential – the 1997 film – and yes, you should have one. Take another look at it. See the gorgeous actress playing the high-priced hooker Lynn Bracken? That’s Kim Basinger, a person noted by many as photophobic. For the teen-aged girls noted above, that doesn’t mean that Ms. Basinger doesn’t like to have her picture taken – that’s part of her job. It means that she is averse to light, particularly sunlight. Notice that, in this film, she appears to be about 26 years old – at most. However, when she made the film she was actually 44. Staying out of the sunlight works. (In a weird way, the upper-crust Elizabethans were absolutely right. The lead-based, white make-up wasn’t a particularly good idea, though.) Any tax, then, that ensures that there are more people on earth who at least vaguely resemble Kim Basinger would be a good thing.
Boyles, Salynn. “WHO: Tanning Beds Cause Cancer.” webmd.com. 28 July 2009.
“Kim Basinger.” imdb.com. 3 January 2009.