Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

“Consumerist: Tanning Salon Barred From Claiming Indoor Tanning Is Safer Than Sitting In The Sun”

December 22, 2016

As published by the Consumerist on December 22, 2016.

Because there’s no guarantee that willfully exposing your skin to the sun won’t increase the risk of cancer, whether you’re basking in the rays of a UV lamp or sunning on the beach, a New York tanning salon company has agreed to a settlement that bars it from making misleading health-related claims regarding the harms and benefits of indoor tanning.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office says the court-ordered settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in April 2015 that alleged Portofino Spas — which offers indoor tanning services at five New York City locations — was misrepresenting the health effects of indoor tanning. The settlement requires Portofino to stop making those claims and to comply with state and city tanning regulations.

Despite evidence from the scientific and medical communities regarding the dangers of indoor UV tanning — including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — Portofino made a series of unsupported claims on its website and social media outlets, Schneiderman’s office says.

These claims minimized or denied the link between tanning and increased cancer risk; falsely represented the benefits of vitamin D as well as other purported health benefits associated with tanning; or falsely asserted the safety of indoor tanning compared to tanning outdoors.

Among the misleading statements made by Portofino:
• “There actually is no clear direct experimental evidence showing a causative mechanism between tanning and melanoma.”
• “Getting enough vitamin D is linked to reductions in heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis & many cancers — are you getting enough?”
• “Control is key – and it’s only possible within the environment of a certified, indoor tanning salon.”

Such claims led consumers to believe that indoor tanning is risk-free, and doesn’t lead to increased risk of skin cancer — and that the practice contributes to improved health, to boot. But indoor tanning is neither safe nor a desirable way to get your dose of vitamin D, the AG’s office notes.

However, the AG’s office notes, scientific evidence shows that tanning devices like the kind Portofino uses expose consumers to UV radiation that is far stronger than natural sunlight — producing UV rays up to 15 times more intense than the sun, frequently resulting in burning. Investigators with the AG’s office also found that the company violated state tanning laws by failing to provide current tanning hazards and consent forms, as well as failing to post state-required warning signs near all tanning devices.

Portofino has agreed to pay $300 per day for any future health misrepresentations and for each future violation of New York tanning laws.

“This agreement is a continuation of my office’s efforts to protect consumers from the known risks associated with indoor tanning. Businesses cannot and should not profit by misleading consumers as to purported health benefits of this harmful activity,” said Schneiderman.

In April, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement requiring the marketers of indoor tanning systems to pay out refunds to consumers, after claiming in ads that their systems were not only safe, but that research proves indoor tanning does not increase the risk of melanoma skin cancer.