When it comes to making health claims about indoor tanning, the Indoor Tanning Association has taken a firm stand: as a group, its members are against it.
The ITA urges salon owners to stop making health claims about UV tanning services. This means no more boasting about the connection between indoor tanning and vitamin D production in the body, and no more statements such as, “tanning prevents cancer, reduces heart disease and/or prevents diabetes.” The ITA also wants salon professionals to quit referring to indoor tanning as “safe” and/or “safer than tanning outdoors.” Making these types of claims has been against the law for many years now, and the ITA knows from recent experience that the government is actively enforcing it.
“For years, the ITA has gone along with the majority of industry professionals in supporting the link between tanning and vitamin D,” said John Overstreet, ITA Executive Director. “We thought that having scientifically-proven evidence of a positive effect of indoor tanning would help this industry fend off the claims made our detractors each year. As we have come to discover, making these types of claims in a commercial manner has some very serious and expensive consequences.”
Beginning in June 2008, the ITA became entangled in a two-year legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission over health claims made in association with UV tanning. “They began investigating us in the spring of 2008 following a very aggressive pro-tanning PR campaign we initiated earlier that year,” Overstreet explained. “The FTC’s attorneys believed that the claims made in our campaign crossed the line from advocacy into commercial speech, which falls under the jurisdiction of the FTC. The FTC forbids anyone from making claims that could be considered ‘false, misleading, attempting to entice and/or be deceptive.’”
After two long years and a half million dollars in legal fees, the ITA reached a Consent Decree with the FTC. Finalized in December 2009, it allows the ITA to make the claim that UV tanning sessions produce vitamin D3. The consent decree doesn’t put any restrictions on what the ITA says to the media or policymakers. It allows the ITA to continue to have a meaningful voice in the ongoing public debate over the health benefits of appropriate exposure to ultraviolet light, including vitamin
D production in the body, as well as the risks of over exposure, Overstreet explained. However, the ITA voluntarily agreed to refrain from making certain commercial statements “in connection with the manufacturing, labeling, advertising, promotion, offering for sale or distribution of any covered product or service, in or affecting commerce.” The FTC does not dispute the ITA’s position that our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun or a tanning bed. In fact, the settlement provides specific language for the ITA to use when making health benefit claims that acknowledge the production of vitamin D from ultraviolet light.
“Based on our experience with the FTC,” Overstreet said, “we believe that refraining from making health claims is in our industry’s best interest. We strongly encourage all tanning salon operators to follow our lead on this issue, because making these types of claims can have a legal impact at the salon level, as well. The offices of some states’ attorneys general have filed suits against a handful of salon owners for making health claims, and the legal fees and fines associated with these cases have been extremely costly.”
“In recognizing the impact that salon operator training has had on the way salon pros conduct themselves behind the counter, and based on my experience with the FTC, I am happy to endorse training programs that do not promote using health claims in their training, such as Sun Is Life®” Overstreet said. “Because Sun is Life is centered upon this prudent philosophy and offers a solid foundation for salon operation, I think it is an excellent tanning salon training and certification program that all salons should consider.”
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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