Oh, Burn! Senate Adds A Tax On Tanning

You thought health care reform was all about boring stuff like health insurance, didn’t you? Well, it’s far more fabulous than that: Washington, D.C.’s finest are fretting over several medical procedures of interest to the casts of “Jersey Shore” and “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” including Botax and fake baking.

The latest news? A tax on plastic surgery is out, while a tax on indoor tanning is in.
Politicians debated what was jokingly referred to as a “Bo-tax”—a tax on elective plastic surgery, like boob jobs, and cosmetic injections, such as Botox or Restylane — which would have added a 5 percent tax to procedures.

But surprise! The Bo-tax was scrapped and a 10 percent tax on all indoor tanning services won out instead (except for indoor tanning when used for phototherapy, which is medically necessary for some people with depression).

Since many tanning salon proprietors are small business owners, they’re pissed about how the new tax could impact their business. The executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association, John Overstreet, said in a statement:

“It is not surprising that one primarily cosmetic business is trying to throw another under the bus by transferring a tax from rich doctors and their wealthy customers to struggling small businesses. The irony is that ultraviolet light at least has proven health benefits where Botox treatments have none.”

The weird part of the story is why politicians eliminated the “Bo-tax”: I guess we can assume lobbyists for groups as diverse as the American Medical Association, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the National Organization of Women were successful when they balked at the “Bo-tax,” saying it was unfair because it disproportionately affected women. But, speaking purely anecdotally, a tanning tax probably disproportionately affects women, too, right? I don’t really believe that being fair to women was the number one reason why the Senate switched from a “Bo-tax” to a tanning tax, since it affects the exact same constituency.

In any case, there is a bright side, so far as women’s health is concerned. Here’s my logic: to make up for the customers they lose, who don’t want to pay for the new taxes, tanning salons might raise their prices. That could “price out” some customers, thereby saving those customers’ skin from long-term damage. Because we all know that, “light therapy” aside, it’s no secret that tanning is awful for you. The L.A. Times recently reported that people who start fake-baking before age 30 are eight times more likely to get melanoma. Ugh!

Still, let’s be honest: Plastic surgery ain’t great for you, either. I, personally, wouldn’t mind if a hefty “Bo-tax” discouraged more people from getting potentially dangerous plastic surgeries. Alas, it sounds like the plastic surgery lobbyists are just more powerful than the tanning ones, doesn’t it? [Wall Street Journal, CNN.Money.com]