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Kai Ryssdal: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs ventured into tax policy today. He said President Obama’s not planning to call for a value-added tax as a way to cut the deficit. That is, effectively, a nationwide sales tax. We do have a whole lot of excise taxes in this country, though. Taxes on the use of something, like cigarettes or alcohol.
And, as of July 1st, a tax on tanning salons. It’s part of the health care law. And those three — smokes, booze, and a tan — may have another thing in common: A new study of college students reports that about a third of those who used tanning beds might actually be addicted, to tanning.
From the Marketplace Health Desk at WHYY, Kerry Grens has more.
Kerry Grens: Springtime is high season for tanning salons, when pasty patrons get ready for summer. Then there are the regulars who go year round — summer or winter, tan and more tan.
CARI MELKONIAN: I have absolutely witnessed clients that are addicted to tanning.
Cari Melkonian owns Caramels Tanning in Saint Johnsbury, Vt.
MELKONIAN: They develop a problem where they’re coming in multiple times a week, and they develop what I call to be a walking football.
But enough people think it’s attractive that annual revenue for tanning beds grew five-fold in the past two decades. Tanning salons now bring in $5 billion per year. It’s not just the look that brings in business.
Catherine Mosher, a researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, surveyed several hundred college students.
CATHERINE MOSHER: There is growing evidence that a significant subgroup are addicted.
Mosher says one hallmark of addiction is continuing the habit while knowing the negative consequences. Studies have found a higher risk of melanoma among people who tan before age 35.
The U.S. already spends nearly $300 million treating all melanoma cases each year — a little more than projected to come in from the tax.
Dan Humiston is the president of the Indoor Tanning Association.
DAN HUMISTON: People have addictive personalities, and they’re susceptible to addictions. Is this like a narcotic or cigarettes or something? That is absurd.
Perhaps the test of how addictive tanning is will be whether a $1 or $2 tax per session will keep anyone from going.
In Philadelphia, I’m Kerry Grens, for Marketplace.
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