Help us end the fiscal year strong. Donate by midnight tonight. Donate Now
Marketplace Scratch Pad

The Coppertone tax

Scott Jagow Dec 22, 2009

If the Senate version of the health care bill prevails, there would be no tax on Botox treaments to help pay for the plan. No, instead, the government would go after tanning salon patrons.

The 10% sales tax would apply to people who purchase indoor tanning services, unless a doctor prescribed it as phototherapy. From the LA Times:

“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,” John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Assn., said in a statement Saturday. “The irony is that ultraviolet light at least has proven health benefits, where botox treatments have none.”

A senior Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue, said the tanning tax was added out of “concern that use of these tanning beds creates a health problem with respect to cancer.”

Uh, yes, but the sun creates that problem too. Why don’t we tax the sun? I mean, every day of the year, it’s up there shining and shining. It never stops. And you can’t control the amount of UV rays like you can indoors.

At the very least, tanning oils should be taxed into oblivion, right? Or how about installing tanning meters at the beach? Deposit a quarter for every 15 minutes you lie out in the sun.

Alas, the sun is considered too big to fail, and the Indoor Tanning Association doesn’t have the clout of the outdoor tanning lobby, the dermotologists or the cosmetic surgeons. Even though the “Botax” would raise twice as much money as the tanning tax, the surgeons successfully argued that the botax would discriminate against… yes, middle-class baby boomer women.

I’ve never been to a tanning salon in my life, but Indoor Tanning Association, feel free to use my suggestions in the fight against this.

Let’s put it to a vote. Botax or tanning tax? Or do you have a better suggestion?

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

The clock is ticking 

We’re so close! Our fiscal year ends at midnight tonight. Help us reach our fundraising goal by making your gift of any amount now!