April 13, 2010

The Nanny State Will Tax Your Skin

Justin Katz

Fellow blogger and Providence Firefighter/EMT Michael Morse and his wife sent an op-ed to the Providence Journal objecting to an Obamacare tax on tanning salons:

A small group will be the first to pay for national health-care reform, the first to put their hard-earned dollars into the system. Starting July 1, they will pay 10 percent more for a service that helps them feel better and look better and promotes healthy living.

You can’t tax sunshine, right? Think again. The indoor-tanning industry, mostly small-business owners, the majority of them women, has been singled out to provide funds for a program that claims to be equitable for all.

As they note, other skin-related professions avoided proposed taxes because of the size of their lobbies and the urge to protect people from themselves that has begun to creep from smoking to tanning (let alone eating fast food). For their part, the Morses dispute the ill effects of artificial tanning on health.

Personally, I think that's besides the point. It isn't the role of government to impose a healthy lifestyle on individuals, especially with matters of such long-term repercussions as exposure to light. We'd best get used to it, though. With the government intimately involved in our healthcare system — even more than was already the case — your every behavior is now a matter of interstate commerce.

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So, a healthy life without skin cancer is not part of the general welfare of happiness of the people?

The fact that the Fed. Gov, the state and local gov. and WE in the end pick up the tab for skin and other cancers is not relevant?

Silly boy!

Next, I suppose you will tell us you don't believe in taxes on booze and cigarettes. Then you will tell us government should keep marijuana illegal.

See the dichotomy? I didn't think so!

Posted by: Stuart at April 13, 2010 10:12 AM

Thanks for the post, Justin.

Stuart, tanning, indoor or out does not cause skin cancer. Overexposure to uv rays does. Cheeseburgers do not cause obesity. Overexposure to cheeseburgers does. If the government were to impose a ten percent tax on cheeseburgers because some people eat too many of them, well, wait a minute, they will be putting a ten percent tax on them, wait and see.

Government has a place, an important role, but putting an arbitrary tax on things that may or may not be good for us limits our freedom even more.

And what's with the silly boy stuff? You actually make some good points that are consistently disregarded because of your condescending delivery.

Posted by: michael at April 13, 2010 10:32 AM

Semantics, Michael......

People who go to tanning salons get far more skin cancers then the general population, therefore their relatively irresponsible behavior is paid for by the WE.
"A new analysis of about 20 studies concludes the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. Experts also found that all types of ultraviolet radiation caused worrying mutations in mice, proof the radiation is carcinogenic. Previously, only one type of ultraviolet radiation was thought to be lethal."

You can mince words all you like, however the fact remains that such things as tanning salons and booze are perfect for "sin" taxes, which not only makes certain that society is paid back for the costs, but also that perhaps the individual is also saved (higher prices mean less use).

As to Justins concern about businessmen, we could say the same thing about the makers of Napalm, who lost some of their market (and marks) when the Vietnam era ended.

However, the right to make excess money should not trump the right for public health OR even the right of the government to balance their budget.

As far as the silly boy, that's a term of endearment coming from me!

If I meant something more, I would step way up to "you are acting like an idiot" (notice the "acting like" which means they might not be one).

Posted by: Stuart at April 13, 2010 10:39 AM

"A new analysis of about 20 studies concludes the risk of skin cancer jumps by 75 percent when people start using tanning beds before age 30. Experts also found that all types of ultraviolet radiation caused worrying mutations in mice, proof the radiation is carcinogenic. Previously, only one type of ultraviolet radiation was thought to be lethal."

Then stay out of the sun.

I could spend all day refuting that study but it isn't the point of this post. Do what I did if you want to learn the truth of the matter, google uv exposure pro and con and read both sides. Personally, I grew up on a beach, have used indoor tanning now and then and am Irish and Swedish and have zero skin problems.

Posted by: michael at April 13, 2010 10:49 AM

With the nationalization of our healthcare, any tax specific to a behavior that has been statistically shown to have a detrimental effect on the participants health is just fine with me. It helps focus the cost burden of care back on those who would raise the national cost of healthcare.

Posted by: John at April 13, 2010 11:58 AM

>Then stay out of the sun

Of course! But you left out the words "stay out of the tanning salon" and you left out the words "If you do either, you are adding to the health care bill of yourself and others"

You seem to be confusing personal behavior and choice with public policy. If people were so inclined to be responsible, we would not need any laws at all.

But I'll give you this - that is a good talking point! In fact, it begs for you to legalize cocaine, heroin and everything else (something Justin is firmly against!).

But I'm with you in that sense. I should be able to buy back pain pills without spending big bucks on a doctor.

At the same time, I won't complain if those pills include a 10% tax to pay for the cost of addiction treatments for those who are a bit less responsible.

The point is, in total, that it is REALLY a reach for Justin and others to use such a simple and relatively harmless method of paying for public health - as the talking point du jour.

Posted by: Stuart at April 13, 2010 12:36 PM

You are completely wrong, Stuart. Staying out of the sun or tanning salon is far worse that getting some rays. The benefits of sun and the vitamin D that is a natural result of sun exposure far outweigh the risk of skin cancer. Our bodies are designed to be exposed to the sun, without which we will wither and die.

Or, you can listen to the people who promote putting chemicals on your skin every time you leave the safety of indoors, at ten bucks a bottle. Somehow we survived the sun before somebody told us it was bad, my guess is we will continue to survive.

The point is, Obamacare took the road of least resistance in imposing a ten percent tax on tanning salons. Our industry has no lobbying power in Washington, no financial backing and no AMA and chemical companies who stand to lose millions if their product is taxed. It isn't even the tax itself in question, it is the perception that something bad for you is being taxed, when that isn't the real reason behind it.

Or didn't you bother to even read the article?

Posted by: michael at April 13, 2010 1:05 PM

I am aware that you have a selfish interest in this, and I feel if it affects your business. However, if I wanted to go to a tanning salon, the price difference between $20 or $22 a session would not stop me. I doubt it would stop anyone else either.

It is beyond the scope of every citizen to fully research each aspect of modern life. What is fair to you is not fair to me and may not be fair to others or to the public at large.

It's the same old story. We are running vast deficits in RI and the country due to things like health care and public services. So, we must balance the situation out in a time of sharply declining revenue.

Which increased taxes DO you favor for both paying you as a public service employee and as a business person?

We don't get these services (like your job) for free. We have to pay.

To make a long story longer, as a business guy I feel for you. But I also feel for the tens of thousands of video rental stores which have closed.

I also dispute that you are the first ones to pay for our health care woes. I pay vast amounts of taxes regularly which all go to pay for our health care deficits. These include taxes in multiple states as well as business and local taxes.

No one volunteers to pay lot of extra taxes.

I'll leave you with this. My main business went through a similar situation where government rules, brought on by a suit against the EPA, made 90% of the manufacturers have to close up shop. I also owned a manufacturing business at the time, which I had to sell cheap since the products were not ready for the new rules.

But I didn't blame the government or Reagan (he was President then). I moved on and put more attention into other aspects of my business - and did very well.

I suppose you will do the same.

Posted by: Stuart at April 13, 2010 3:22 PM

Wow, Stuart you are a good dancer. The issue at hand is the government's taxing one business as opposed to other similar businesses. Doctors have used tanning beds for decades to treat skin disorders and other ailments.

I have no worries of my tanning salon closing. The business will be there, it is up to me to make it as good as I can.

Your commentary has potential to be of value, but not if you continue to pontificate off topic.

I do appreciate a good debate, and thank you for the entertainment, but you are way off base, and arguing just for arguments sake.

Posted by: michael at April 13, 2010 3:48 PM

Ha, doctors gave my aunt thalidomide too!
Shoe stores used to have x-rays which create a 100X greater chance of cancer than current ones.....

But, yes, thanks for the dance. One thing in life is certain - there is no such thing as "fair" or "justice".

Sometimes we try, but we almost never get there. Hey, I think they mean well...in this case. You just happened to have the worst lobbyists.

Posted by: Stuart at April 13, 2010 5:25 PM

" but putting an arbitrary tax on things that may or may not be good for us limits our freedom even more."

Right. I don't care to tan. But I object to the tax on tanning salons because it is clear evidence of government mission creep. If it continues, eventually, it will unnecessarily affect something that each of us likes.

See the State of New York, for example: encouraged by the dubious success of a government mandate for restaurants to show calorie counts on their menus, there is now a completely absurd proposal to ban all salt from restaurant food. (Hopefully, the restaurants will all file a class action lawsuit against that assemblyman. And no, Mayor Bloomberg, salt is not comparable to carcinogenic asbestos. Sheesh.)


Posted by: Monique at April 14, 2010 8:24 AM

I'd yield to John Boehner's expertise on this issue.

Posted by: rhody at April 14, 2010 9:02 PM

I'm surprised he and George Hamilton weren't the lead lobbyists against this tax ...

Posted by: Monique at April 15, 2010 2:06 PM
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