A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement Barring Tanning Salon Chain From Making Misleading Health Claims

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 10, 2016

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A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN ANNOUNCES AGREEMENT BARRING TANNING SALON CHAIN FROM MAKING MISLEADING HEALTH CLAIMS 

Total Tan, Inc. Failed to Comply with NYS Tanning Regulations; Company is Prohibited from Making Health Representations and will be Subject to Fines for Future Violations or Health Misrepresentations at any of their 25 Upstate NY Locations 

Schneiderman: We Will Not Tolerate Consumers Being Led to Believe there is Anything Safe about Dangerous Indoor UV Tanning Devices 

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that Justice Alice Schlesinger of the New York Supreme Court approved a settlement with Total Tan, Inc., a New York Company that provides indoor tanning services at 25 locations across upstate New York and three locations in Pennsylvania.  The agreement resolves a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General in April 2015.  It prohibits Total Tan from making health misrepresentations and from failing to comply with New York State tanning regulations.  Total Tan has agreed to pay $5,000 per day for any future health misrepresentations and $500 for each future violation of New York tanning laws.

“Today’s agreement is part of our continuing efforts to protect consumers from the documented skin cancer risks of indoor tanning,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  “I am especially concerned with rising cancer rates associated with indoor tanning, particularly for young people.  Advertising and marketing cannot be used as a tool to confuse and endanger New York consumers.”

Indoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer – which is responsible for 9,000 deaths in the United States each year.  Indoor tanning also increases the risk of other skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.  While usually not fatal, these skin cancers can cause noticeable disfigurement.  In addition to increasing the risk of skin cancer, UV exposure can also harm the immune system and cause premature skin aging.  New York State tanning law currently prohibits tanning for children under 17 and requires parental consent for children between the ages of 17 and 18.  Additionally, New York law requires that current tanning hazards information sheets and acknowledgement forms be distributed to tanning patrons and that free protective eyewear be made available to tanning patrons.  The Attorney General’s office has released a brochure on indoor tanning safety that provides important information on the risks and harms associated with UV tanning.

Despite the clear dangers of tanning, Total Tan’s website featured a number of claims that downplayed the inherent risks of indoor tanning, including representations that “the risks associated with UV light have been overstated and the benefits ignored” and that indoor tanning “is the smartest way to maximize the potential benefits of sun exposure while minimizing the potential risks.”  Total Tan also touted the purported health benefits of indoor tanning, including that indoor tanning is a good source of vitamin D and helps treat and prevent an array of diseases, including heart disease, asthma, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  These claims, which were not supported, led consumers to believe that indoor tanning is not only risk-free, but also contributes to improved health.  Indoor tanning is neither a safe nor a desirable way to obtain vitamin D or any other health benefits.  Vitamin D can safely be obtained through diet and supplements, so obtaining vitamin D through indoor tanning poses unnecessary risks.

As part of the Attorney General’s inquiry, investigators visited a number of Total Tan salons and were informed by Total Tan employees at different locations that indoor tanning would only damage the skin if it were “excessive” and that indoor tanning would not cause skin damage because “only burning is bad for your skin.”  The investigators also found that Total Tan violated New York State tanning laws by failing to provide protective eyewear at no additional cost.

The action announced today is one of a number of steps taken by the Attorney General to help educate the public and raise awareness of the harms associated with indoor tanning.  In 2013, the Attorney General launched an investigation into suspected misleading advertising in the indoor tanning salon industry.  The Attorney General reached settlements in March 2014 with HT Franchising Management LLC, the franchisor of the Hollywood Tans salons, and Hollywood Tans NYC, a Manhattan-based franchise of the national chain, requiring them to stop making health-related representations to promote tanning services.  The Attorney General also reached a settlement in November 2015 with Planet Fitness, which offers UV tanning at certain gyms, to stop offering “unlimited” tanning, to provide adequate training to employees who oversee indoor tanning services, and to stop making health-related claims to promote red-lamp devices.  Planet Fitness also paid costs and penalties.  In April 2016, the attorney General reached a settlement with Salon Management USA, LLC and BBT Retail, Inc., which license the use of the “Beach Bum Tanning” trademark under which Beach Bum Tanning salons operate.   That agreement prohibits the companies from making health claims, offering “unlimited” tanning packages, and targeting high school students. 

The Attorney General also has a  lawsuit currently pending against Portofino Spas, LLC (“Portofino”), alleging that the franchise engaged in false advertising by denying or minimizing scientific evidence linking tanning to an increased cancer risk; promoting indoor tanning as a safe way to reap the benefits of vitamin D and other purported health benefits; and asserting the safety of indoor tanning compared to tanning outdoors.  In addition, the Attorney General alleged that Portofino violated certain New York indoor tanning laws by failing to provide the required notification of tanning health hazards and consent forms.  

The Total Tan litigation was handled by Assistant Attorney General Kate Matuschak and Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, Assistant Attorney General Laura Mirman-Heslin and Environmental Scientist Charles Silver of the Environmental Protection Bureau, and Bureau Chief Lisa Landau of the Health Care Bureau.  The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is in the Division of Economic Justice, led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Manisha M. Sheth.  The Health Care and Environmental Protection Bureaus are in the Division of Social Justice, led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg.

Consumers with questions or concerns about health care matters may call the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau Helpline at 1-800-428-9071.