Here we go – it’s that time of year again! With almost pinpoint accuracy, we can predict the moment when the anti-tanning lobby unleashes its annual assault on tanning beds.
The usual media suspects, or should I say culprits, will consume the press release diatribe with all the voracity of a starving animal. Trying to keep one step ahead by predicting exactly what’s on the menu is the problem – our problem.
This year, we know there is a strong lobbying force to extend the scope of existing regulations for tanning bed use and operation. I have attended an All-Party Parliamentary meeting to discuss, comment on and in some cases challenge a variety of proposed extensions to legislation. I also recently presented at an Evidence Session in the House of Commons to Members of Parliament from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, again as part of the consultation process to consider the need for any changes or additions to legislation.
An ongoing frustration for our industry is the funding and resource abilities of the anti-tanning protagonists to continually commission research studies to fit a specific headline-grabbing campaign agenda. My suspicions are, however, that even if were able to undertake our own research, it wouldn’t receive the same level of attention from the media.
I recently wrote to our Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about a particular article in a national daily newspaper with very high circulation, that has an unenviable reputation for its generally sensationalist approach. The article was full of the same old inaccurate facts and statistics constantly regurgitated by the media, even though we have regularly challenged and rebutted providing clarification. Nonetheless, in this particular article, the journalist provided her own opinion of tanning beds, referring to them as “disease creating hell-holes… that should be shut down overnight.” Now whilst she is entitled to her opinion, albeit wrong, it has to be substantiated.
The PCC “investigated” my complaint, by sending my letter to the editor of the newspaper concerned, which is their normal procedure. Of course, the newspaper defended its journalist to the hilt, once again attempting to substantiate the quote by regurgitating the same old research statistics that I had challenged and rebutted in my letter of complaint. And guess what? The PCC said there was no case to answer. Talk about looking after your own!
Of course, the response received was entirely expected and just one of the reasons why I welcome the new Independent Press Standards Organisation that has been set up to replace the discredited PCC.
On a brighter note, I have made contact with an investigative journalist who is very keen indeed to research an exposé on the myths surrounding tanning bed use. This chap has excellent credentials and has been published in all the leading national newspapers with health as one of his specialist areas. So this, I very much hope, will eventually prove to be quite an exciting development in our continuing crusade to balance the scales.
The upside to this time of year is that we kick off our “tanning season.” Of course, indoor tanning is a year round business but salon footfall really starts picking up from hereon into the summer months. It really does give me a mild sense of satisfaction that the anti-tanning campaigners’ annual attack comes at a time when salons are ramping up their sales. That must be rather irksome for the campaign managers – oh yes, indeed!
In the tanning industry since 1982, Gary is Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of Ergoline, and runs Ergoline Plus, the exclusive distributor for a wide range of sunless products and spray systems. He is also Chairman of the Media Committee for the UK’s Sunbed Association & a European Sunlight Association member.
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