In the UK, we are well and truly into the tanning season. Positive indicators include the increased number of sales calls in my office: customers telling us that footfall into salons is already greater than at this time last year (which is always great to hear) and of course, the fact that we are creeping closer towards the summer months, although you wouldn’t believe it with the recent deluge of snow across some parts of the country. The negative indicator for me, however, is the annual media onslaught that peaks around this time of year, and 2013 has turned out to be no different than the past years, albeit with an interesting twist.
Over the last couple of months, there have been no fewer than four anti-tanning attacks on our industry. Each of these incidents has made the national news, with numerous others at a regional and local level. The twist this year is that even with the scale of attack seemingly on the increase, there is also evidence that the concerted efforts of our industry’s fight back are beginning a trickle effect of change.
Case in point was a recent national breakfast TV interview, during which, as Chairman of the Sunbed Association, I was invited to sit on the sofa alongside a former skin cancer patient who had self-diagnosed her skin cancer as the result of indoor tanning sessions. It turns out this woman was a former TV presenter who now offers her services to the anti-tanning lobby to “spread the word”. There is nothing particularly wrong with that, you might say. However, after having witnessed her being coached prior (even though we were kept apart beforehand) and then listening to her comments during the interview, including some detailed statistics, it would appear that the anti-tanning lobby is having to up its game in terms of the “quality” of case-study it offers as proof of tanning’s ill effects.
There is evidence that the concerted efforts of our industry’s fight back are beginning a trickle effect of change.
There’s no doubt that participating in a live, national TV interview can be quite a daunting experience, so I understand that our opposition would want to feature someone who wasn’t going to be intimidated by the studio lights, presenters etc., which can potentially render one little better than speechless. However, on this occasion, I am not convinced this “professional case study” approach worked for the anti-tanning brigade.
The interview covered a number of issues, during which time, due to our interview-savvy, my opponent and I were both in a position to coherently put our views forward. Oddly enough, I found this actually made it easier for me to deconstruct many of my opponent’s comments. I was, however, slightly unnerved by one of the presenters who seemed unprofessionally intent on demonstrating a negative bias toward tanning beds, regularly interrupting and talking over me.
Nonetheless, the level of response from my colleagues and fellow industry campaigners confirmed my suspicion that our collective efforts are effecting change. The content of one or two negative comments on Twitter and on the programme’s web page was further evidence that we had very firmly gotten under the skin of our detractors.
You may also recall the recent success story where researchers had to admit that a sound-bite statistic bandied far and wide was incorrect. The Sunbed Association subsequently requested that Cancer Research UK amend the relevant data on its website, to which they have acquiesced. We are adopting the same approach with other detractors.
There is more than enough scientific research and research analysis to critically challenge urban myths about indoor tanning. Our detractors know this well, perhaps even better than we appreciate, so surely it’s only a matter of time before their attacks abate and take a different direction.
We have taken a few small steps toward that time but, “From small acorns grow large trees,” as they say!
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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