Photo credit: Jenna Chabot

As you walk into an East Lansing tanning salon, you may see swarms of people lined up to buy tanning packages to start bronzing their bodies. Many MSU students may be unaware that a tax on tanning has been imposed on all tanning salons and is added on to the price of each visit. The 10 percent tax was imposed to help reduce the increased rate of melanoma cancer.

According a CBS News article published in June 2010, tanning booths emit both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays, which make up the majority of rays emitted, give you the color and UVB rays cause the burn. What most people don’t understand is that tanning booths emit rays that can be up to 12 times stronger than the sun’s natural rays. People think UVA rays are safe when really they can do just as much harm to a person’s skin as the burning UVB rays. Just because you don’t burn doesn’t mean your skin is safe.

Bronze Bay Tanning Company’s manager and tanning specialist, Megan Kelly, said business has not decreased since the tanning tax was implemented. Kelly said she disagrees with the tax on tanning and believes it should be up to the client whether the risks of tanning are great enough for them to stop.

“The biggest issue with the tax is complaints,” said Kelly. “People just don’t understand why they have to pay more to tan. Tanning companies aren’t losing revenue, but they certainly aren’t gaining from it either. We realize you guys [students] are already counting your quarters. Offering better deals on tanning is one way we try to subsidize costs for our students.”

The Tanning Company’s Alison Loew said she felt that the tax on tanning has impacted their business slightly, but not dramatically. Their biggest issue with the tax, like Bronze Bay’s, is complaints.

“People will complain about the tax but do little more about it; packages are still bought and life goes on,” Loew said.

Loew, who is against the tanning tax, said she strongly believes people will tan anyways. She thinks the tax is “another way to raise money for the government.”

Kelly said Bronze Bay’s owner, Sarah Munkacsy, only allows her employees to tan three times per week.

Bronze Bay realizes that excessive tanning is unhealthy, and will have repercussions as anything done excessively, such as eating, drinking, exercising, or smoking.

“The tax has stopped me from tanning all the time, but not completely,” said speech pathology sophomore, Kait Ayers. “I still go when I want to.”

As a college student, Ayers was not looking forward to the tax on tanning.

“I hate paying more to tan,” she said.

Ayers rarely tans now and knows that it is not good for her skin. She said that she has concerns about the exposure to harmful rays but she doesn’t fully understand what the rays truly are. However, cost is the main reason she doesn’t tan often.

“It’s just too expensive. Coupled with cost, I know the side effects of tanning can be detrimental and I don’t want to put myself in the position to harm my body,” Ayers said.

Emily Gwardzinski, an education junior, has first-hand experience with how melanoma cancer can disrupt someone’s life.

“Skin cancer runs in my family, so seeing first-hand the effects it has on someone close to me influences my decision to not tan,” said Gwardzinski.

Photo credit: Jenna Chabot

“I don’t think the tax is that bad of an idea,” said Gwardzinski. “Tanning is not good for your body, and excessive tanning only hurts the person more. Placing a tax on it might prevent some people from using it, which would save them in the long run.”

Gwardzinski said the people who definitely want to tan will be willing to pay the extra money, but it may convince people they don’t need to tan everyday. Which is exactly what Ali Kraus took away from the tax on tanning.

“I started tanning the winter of my junior year in high school,” said Ali Kraus, a graduate from the Douglas J. Aveda Institute. “I used to tan a lot but now I limit myself. The tanning tax did change my views on tanning.”

Kraus said she now realizes the dangers of fake tanning and has decided to make trips to the tanner less often.

Dr. Marcy Street, of Doctors Approach Dermatology, said she believes the tanning tax will be a very effective way to reduce the use of tanning beds and implementing a tanning tax was a necessary measure to deter people from using such a harmful device.

“ I feel there does need to be a tanning tax. They need to increase the level of awareness on the harmful effects [tanning has on the body],” Street said.

There is another option for those who are concerned about the risks of tanning and the tax that goes with it.

“We stress healthy tanning here at Bronze Bay. To balance the losses of indoor tanning, we provide our clients with the advantages of spray tanning,” Kelly said.

Spray tans may be a healthy alternative and a method for the avid tanner to still achieve the bronzed color they want.

Around campus and on Grand River Avenue, students can see that many tanning salons are advertising spray tanning and specials on tanning packages. If you look deeper you’ll notice companies aren’t emphasizing that spray tanning is healthier unless you read their newsletters or specifically talk with one of the specialists. Luckily, spray tans are exempt from the tanning tax and are a healthier alternative to tanning beds.

Many students have misconceptions about spray tans: they think they will walk away with an unnatural-looking tan.

Gwardzinski also said her sister tried spray tanning for a banquet this year and she looked really good, not orange. She also added that the spray tan didn’t last long, but liked that it was much safer than a tanning bed.

Kraus had a similar experience with spray tanning and said it was much easier to get tan than with traditional tanning.

All these misconceptions about spray tanning intrigued me, so I took the plunge and gave spray tanning a shot: I’m not that dreaded pumpkin color. The experience itself was different than any other I’ve had. Standing stark naked in front of another person wasn’t my favorite part, but I certainly did step outside of my comfort zone.

Don’t worry; spray tans aren’t always so up close and personal. Depending on the salon, you may have a choice between that of an employee spraying you down or a machine. Spray tanning may only last five to ten days, but for some that outweighs the downsides of conventional tanning.

Based on the reactions from students, it seems the tanning tax actually has had an effect on some individuals’ tanning habits. Although some tanning salons are not experiencing a loss of business, the tax seems to have had a positive effect on individual’s use of UV tanning salons.

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