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A tanning bed tax is racist?

Talk in the States this week is all about Obama’s tax on tanning beds, after Congressman Ted Yoho branded the tax “racist”, saying it benefitted people who didn’t need to tan. Basically, Ted Yoho decided that people with dark skin didn’t use tanning beds and so it was a “racist tax”.

Sadly, Yoho has entirely missed the point of this tax. It isn’t about Obama being racist or protecting a specific group or people while penalizing another. It’s about something that has been proven to be harmful being slapped with a tax to make it less appealing. If tanning is 10% more expensive, then maybe people will think twice about going for a treatment – and that could save lives. Every year in the US, 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer and because skin cancers tend to occur in more than one place, that’s 3.5 million individual cancers.

The links between skin cancer and tanning beds are strong. Healthy Look at these figures from – indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never used tanning beds. In a survey of people aged between 18 and 29 who had developed melanomas after using sunbeds, 3 out of 4 of them had developed the melanomas because of the sunbeds.

So, it’s quite clear that this is a health issue rather than a race issue. Tanning beds cause a strain on the health system, just like alcohol and cigarettes do. Those two things are taxed, so why is it surprising that tanning should also be taxed? The only surprise is that it didn’t happen earlier.

Of course, it’s not just the USA that has this problem. The Canadian government has been aware of the problem for some time and is working towards banning tanning beds. The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation has spoken out against them, saying that it “strongly recommends avoiding the use of artificial tanning beds”. In Ottawa, the tanning beds are going to carry warning labels, detailing the cancer risks, and there are already laws in place in several provinces to stop young people using them. For example, in Nova Scotia you have to be 19 to use the beds, while under-18s are banned in Quebec. Manitoba teens require parental consent before tanning, and Ontario and British Columbia are said to be working on legislation to stop under 18s using them as well. It’s very similar to the restrictions on alcohol and cigarettes, users should be old enough to make educated decisions on whether to use the products while understanding the risks involved.

So no, Ted Yoho. It’s not about race. It’s about protecting American citizens from a future of skin cancer, just like the government in Canada is doing. 


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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