WASHINGTON -- Citing concerns over skin cancer, Senate Democrats inserted a last-minute provision into their health care overhaul that would tax the use of tanning beds.
The 10 percent sales tax would be imposed on individuals who purchase tanning services, but would not apply to what the bill called "phototherapy by a licensed medical professional." Most tanning salons are not staffed by medical personnel.
The tanning tax would help pay for the massive overhaul by raising an estimated $2.7 billion over 10 years. It replaces a proposed excise tax on elective cosmetic surgery that previously had been included in the bill. The so-called "botax" would have raised more than twice the amount as the tanning tax. But cosmetic surgeons, who claimed that it would discriminate against middle-class women, launched a successful lobbying campaign against it.
"It is not surprising that one primarily cosmetic business is trying to throw another under the bus by transferring a tax from rich doctors and their wealthy customers to struggling small businesses," John Overstreet, director of the Indoor Tanning Association, said in a statement Saturday. "The irony is that ultraviolet light at least has proven health benefits, where botox treatments have none."
A senior Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue, said the tanning tax was added out of "concern that use of these tanning beds creates a health problem with respect to cancer."