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EDITORIAL: Tanning tax aims at reducing skin cancer

Many controversies surround the new federal health-care legislation, so it comes as no surprise that the law's first element to take effect has businesses and consumers seeing red.

Under the health care bill, Americans who use tanning beds must now pay a 10-percent tax. The tanning tax took effect earlier this month and is expected to generate $2.7 billion over the next 10 years to help underwrite health-care reform costs.

While tanning businesses and their customers lament the new tax, it's certainly not the first time America has taxed harmful habits. Tobacco has been taxed since the Civil War, and in 2009 the government enacted the largest federal tobacco tax in American history.

And each time the tobacco tax increases, more people quit smoking, according to American Cancer Society research.

Likewise, the hope is that a tanning tax will help reduce the hours people spend baking underneath damaging ultraviolet light.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays — such as those in tanning beds — is shown to increase the risk of the sun-related skin cancer, melanoma.

“And those studies are all consistent — that regardless of the type of tanning bed that you're using, it increases your risk of developing melanoma,” dermatologist Allan Halpern said in an interview with National Public Radio.

Wyoming is becoming even stricter on tanning regulations. Starting this month, children and teens under 18 must have written parental consent to use an ultraviolet tanning bed.

The 2010 Legislature passed the measure, which Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed in March. It's a wise action for Wyoming, considering research shows melanoma risk increases for those who started using tanning beds before the age of 30.

Some residents feel burned by the new federal tanning tax and state's age requirements, but the long-term damage of ultraviolet-light exposure is more harmful than a new tax.

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