Keep Cancer-fighting Tax on Tanning, Groups Tell Congress

House Bill Would Stymie Progress Against UV-Related Skin Cancers

September 14, 2018 04:53 pm News Staff

On the spectrum of so-called sin taxes -- 60 cents on a Super Big Gulp in Philadelphia,(www.phillymag.com) say, or $6 on a pack of cigarettes in Chicago(www.tobaccofreekids.org) -- the federal excise on indoor tanning, a source of a known carcinogen,(www.aad.org) isn't especially punitive.  

[inside of tanning bed with lights on]

But the 10 percent tax, embedded in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), has been a political target(thehill.com) from the beginning. It is now under threat again, this time from the Save American Workers Act,(docs.house.gov) which is scheduled for a vote in the House during the week of Sept. 24.

To preserve the tax as a weapon against melanoma and other deadly cancers linked to indoor tanning, the AAFP has signed on to a letter(3 page PDF) to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urging that the tax be maintained.

The Academy is also calling on its members to send their own messages(www.votervoice.net) to representatives in defense of the tax via the Family Medicine Action Center (FMAC).

"The tanning tax appropriately reflects the carcinogenic effects of indoor tanning," reads the letter, which was signed by the AAFP and 46 other organizations. "Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upward of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year."

The bundle of health-related tax cuts in the House bill would roll back or delay several ACA measures at an estimated cost of $59 billion over 10 years. According to a report(www.cbo.gov) from the Congressional Budget Office, it could cut federal revenue by some $52 billion from 2019 through 2028.

Opposition to the indoor tanning tax pits ideology against evidence-based rulemaking.

On the one hand, opponents say it has injured small businesses even as it failed to raise revenue on par with projections. The Joint Committee on Taxation initially expected the tax to generate as much as $300 million a year, but the IRS collected less than $400 million total(www.forbes.com) during the tax's first five years.

On the other hand, the FDA requires indoor tanning devices to be labeled with cautions against use by minors and has proposed banning(www.fda.gov) their use by anyone younger than 18. And the CDC -- on a page titled simply "Indoor Tanning Is Not Safe"(www.cdc.gov) -- advises that tanning bed use "can cause skin cancers including melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma."

The tax's causal impact has been debated, but the CDC has documented a downward trend in indoor tanning since 2010.(www.cdc.gov)

The AAFP wants that trend to continue and sees the excise as crucial to the war on cancer.

"By helping to raise awareness of the dangers of indoor tanning, the tax also can serve as a deterrent to help mitigate the risks associated with indoor tanning," says the letter.

"Should the tax on indoor tanning be repealed," the AAFP says on its FMAC page, "experts project it would lead to an increase in skin cancer incidence and the cost of skin cancer treatment to the overall health care system."

Related AAFP News Coverage
Indoor Tanning Hazards Prompt Further Safety Proposals
FDA Seeks to Restrict Sunlamp Use to Adults, Mandate Informed Consent
(12/23/2015)

Skin Cancer Prevention Recommendations, CDC Data Affirm Need for Counseling to Minimize Risk
(5/29/2012)

More From AAFP
Joint Statement on Indoor Tanning Tax(74 KB PDF)
(6/10/2015)