Tanning salons seeing red

Published 11:21 am Tuesday, June 8, 2010

FRANKLIN—Tanning salon owners and managers say they’re red-faced about a new federal tax that on July 1 will require them to start charging customers a 10 percent tax on sessions involving ultraviolet rays.

The tax is part of the federal Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March. Revenue from the tax will go toward paying for health care reform.

“It’s going to have a negative impact on the tanning business,” Becky Lowe, manager of Island Tan at 188 Stewart Drive in Franklin, said Monday. “It’s probably going to put several salons out of business.”

Lowe said it was too early to tell whether her salon, which opened in 2002 and has five part-time employees, would be hurt so badly by the tan tax that she would go out of business. She said 90 percent of Island Tan’s business comes from tanning using ultraviolet rays.

“Hopefully we will be OK, but who knows?” Lowe said. “It’s not good timing with IP closing and the tan tax all at the same time. It fell on Franklin at a bad time.”

Karla Cobb, who owns the Endless Summer tanning salon at 15 W. Windsor Blvd. in Windsor, said the new tax won’t hurt her business as much as the negative publicity surrounding tanning in general.

“It’s scaring people,” Cobb said Monday. “People are not educated about this. We run all of our customers through a computer. Our goal is to not burn anybody. We’re all trained to judge the skin and set the time in the tanning bed so that does not happen. If you come in and tan in moderation you’re not going to get burned.”

Cobb said local physicians—including dermatologist —refer patients to her salon regularly for issues ranging from dry skin, psoriasis, acne, vitamin D deficiency and depression.

“Nobody can convince me that tanning is not safer than outdoor tanning,” Cobb said. “If you don’t have a base tan and you stay outside all day, you’re going to burn, peel, the whole nine yards. That’s where all the skin cancer issues come in.”

Spray tanning is a service that not all tanning salons provide. Lowe said about 10 percent of Island Tan’s business is from spray tanning, but Cobb said Endless Summer doesn’t do them.

“I’ve actually heard more negative things about spraying than good things,” Cobb said. “Spraying is not going to prevent you from getting a burn outdoors. That’s just a color that’s sprayed on your skin.”

But Cobb agreed with Lowe that IP’s decision to close the Franklin paper mill would also affect her business.

“We’re down a little bit since the IP announcement,” Cobb said. “A lot of my customers were IP workers or their spouses. For some it’s going to be hard to scrape that extra five dollars together. But I’ve got some that tell me that this is their relaxation and it makes them feel good.”

Cobb said asking customers to pay the additional $5, which she calculates to be the amount of the tax, sends a bad message.

“This is going to affect my business,” Cobb said. “I have been here seven years this August and I have not one time gone up on any of my prices, ever. Once I put a 10 percent tax on that, it’s going to look bad on my part. I hope I’ve got enough faithful customers that they will hang in there with me.”

Lowe said a website — repealtantax.com — had been established to try and generate opposition to the tax and see it repealed.

“We’re encouraging people to talk to their elected officials to try to change or repeal the law,” Lowe said. “We’ll see what happens.”