Tanning Salons Sued for Alleged False Safety Claims

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April 27, 2015


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Alleged false advertisement about the so-called “safety” of indoor tanning salons has prompted the New York Attorney General to sue two tanning salon franchises.

In addition to the lawsuit against Portofino Spas and Total Tan, New York state officials announced plans to take action against other companies that offer indoor tanning services, including Planet Fitness, a national fitness company with operations in Florida.

The state’s lawsuit accuses two franchises — Portofino Spas, LLC (“Portofino”) and Total Tan, Inc. — of offering consumers:

  • False information about cancer risk through allegedly misleading claims that minimize or deny the evidenced-based link between tanning and higher risk of cancer.
  • Vitamin D misinformation by allegedly incorrectly promoting the idea that indoor tanning provides “a safe way to reap the benefits of vitamin D and other purported health benefits.”
  • Misleading safety comparisons by allegedly promoting indoor tanning as a safer alternative relative to outdoor.
  • “Make no mistake about it: There is nothing safe about indoor tanning. The use of ultra-violet devices increases exposure to cancer-causing radiation and puts millions of Americans in serious danger – young adults, in particular,” said Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General.

    Indoor tanning is a big business in Florida, where the state has licensed more than 1,600 tanning facilities and more than 7,000 tanning devices. Those facilities are inspected twice a year by local county representatives of the Florida Health Department. The state has expressed concerns about the safety of indoor tanning.

    “There are risks associated with overexposure to ultraviolet light from tanning beds and booths as there are with overexposure to sunlight,” according to a statement from Florida Health officials.

    In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that tanning devices are more dangerous than previously thought and placed them in the highest cancer risk category: “carcinogenic to humans.” In fact, many states have enacted laws limiting indoor tanning by adolescents, and several states have passed laws banning it for people under age 18. In a July 2014 warning, “Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer,”  the U.S. Surgeon General urged people to stop sunbathing and avoid indoor tanning beds.

    The Skin Cancer Foundation warns high school and college students that just one indoor tanning session per year increases their risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma by 20 percent. The risk of basal cell carcinoma, a nonmelanoma skin cancer, increases by 25 percent after only one or two tanning bed sessions, and soars to 73 percent after six or more sessions.

    “There is no such thing as a safe tan, whether it is obtained at the beach from the sun or produced artificially from an indoor tanning bed,” says Alysa Herman, M.D., a micrographic skin surgeon experienced with the Mohs technique and affiliated with South Miami Hospital,  Baptist Hospital and Doctors Hospital. “It doesn’t matter if your skin turns red signaling a sunburn or turns golden brown demonstrating a suntan, both colors are evidence that damage is occurring.”

    Want to learn more about preventing melanoma cancer? Tune into this blog next Monday for a full report.

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