Monday, March 29, 2010

Zen & the Art of Indoor Tanning

Writing a piece in defense of indoor tanning feels much like I imagine it would to write in defense of driving without a seatbelt or eating raw oysters while pregnant.

It doesn’t feel like the intelligent thing to do.

But from the moment I learned of the tax increase for indoor tanning provided by the health care bill, I've wanted to speak up in defense of the countless small business owners who will be affected — people who don't have enough lobbying power to be heard. At a time when small businesses across this country are suffering and closing their doors, why raise taxes that specifically burden small business owners?

At first I shied away from the issue because, to me, it’s embarrassing – I don’t want everyone to know that I use a tanning salon. At best it seems frivolous, vain, and tacky; at worst, dangerous and deadly. I know it seems horrifying to most people: once or twice a week, I voluntarily fold myself into a coffin-like device, press a button, and slow-cook myself on a bed of high-power bulbs that could one day cause me to develop skin cancer.

Another disclosure I never intended to make on my blog: I’ve suffered from very mild psoriasis since college. Most people wouldn’t even notice it or let it bother them, but I am vain and have always been self-conscious about it. Using an indoor tanning bed is the only effective treatment I have to keep my skin totally clear year round. Period. I know that is not the reason 99.9 percent of other women use the tanning bed, but it is why I personally use it.

Since telling people I go to a tanning salon doesn’t fit with the overall Lyndsey Fifield narrative, I usually don't mention it. I’m more of a modern-day Beatrix Potter and when most people think tanning bed they think Jersey Shore.

I don’t advocate the use of them, much as I don't encourage smoking cigarettes, but I absolutely loathe any force that targets our freedoms and ability to choose for ourselves what we should avoid so long as we are aware of the risks. It starts with a 10% tax increase.

Do these nanny-state-craving, white-girl-hating (come on, who else is affected by a tanning bed tax?), realize how many forms people have to fill out before being allowed to step into a tanning bed? I'm surprised they stopped short of having me raise my right hand, swear an oath, and notarize a document saying that I was absolutely, 100% certain that I understood the risks I was taking. If that hadn't been enough, a very prominent warning label is printed in bold lettering inside every machine.

Ready for a shocker? Every precaution taken by this franchise, owned and operated by a local family, is voluntary. The government does not require them to have someone checking to make sure each person has safety-goggles, but they do. The FDA doesn't require them to have consent forms signed by a parent if a girl is under 18, but they do. I couldn't even get a sunburn in a tanning bed if I wanted to - trained attendants who are certified in the use of the machines help customers select the amount of time and the level of power they should use. None of these precautions are enforced by the government - they are self-enforced practices that responsible business owners have decided to put on themselves.

The tax increase for indoor tanning is the very first action (of many) we’re going to see as a result of the health care bill. Fast food taxes, soda taxes, and other "you're not smart enough to know what's good for you, America" taxes are in queue.