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    Tanning industry vilifies health authorities

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    Washington — Tanning salon owners in the United States are going on the offensive against physicians and other healthcare professionals in an attempt to maintain an industry worth nearly $5 billion a year.

    The tanning industry is “using tactics that appear cribbed from Big Tobacco’s playbook to undermine scientific research and fund advocacy groups that serve the industry’s interests,” according to a report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

    Among these tactics are video presentations produced by the International Smart Tan Network, an industry advocacy group. The videos provide talking points tanning salon owners and employees can use to discredit accepted scientific research and portray dermatologists, sunscreen manufacturers and even the American Cancer Society as members of a sort of cabal, labeled by critics as the so called “Sun Scare industry,” to drive sunscreen profits and scare people away from tanning.

    “The Sun Scare people are just like Big Tobacco, lying for money and killing people,” Joseph Levy, executive director of Smart Tan and one of the industry’s most visible leaders, said in a training video, FCIR reports.

    The indoor tanning industry has come under scrutiny in recent years. A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Minnesota showed that indoor tanners have a 74 percent higher chance of developing melanoma, compared with people who don’t use tanning beds. Thirty-five states regulate tanning by minors, including bans in New York, California and Vermont.

    “The messages promoted by the indoor tanning industry fly in the face of scientific evidence,” David Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement in 2010.

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    Bill Gillette
    Bill Gillette is a freelance writer based in Richmond Heights, Ohio.

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