Kim Cannon, of Rio Grande, started to visit indoor tanning salons at age 14 to make her skin darker for high school dances and proms.
Cannon, now 26, maintained her tanning habit as an adult. She stops by Suntastic Tan in Cape May Court House two or three times per month during the winter to receive a spray tan because she is in more of a rush. The spray tan will last on her skin for five days. During the summer when she has more time, she makes use of the tanning beds at Suntastic Tan either every day or every other day.
"I feel that they make me feel better about myself. I feel healthier with a tan. When you are tanner, you think you look healthier, so you feel better about yourself," said Cannon. "I find that it's very relaxing for the 10 minutes that you are in there."
Cannon said she will continue indoor tanning for as long as she can, but the industry she likes so much is increasingly coming under fire.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Sunlamps and tanning beds are the main sources of deliberate artificial ultraviolet radiation exposures, said the American Academy of Pediatrics.
President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act added a 10 percent tax on tanning services in 2010.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded young adults should be discouraged from using indoor tanning equipment and restricted access to tanning beds and sunlamps by minors should be strongly considered.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a new policy statement on ultraviolet exposure. The AAP supports banning access to tanning parlors for children younger than 18. The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Medical Association all support legislation to ban the use of artificial tanning devices by people younger than 18.
James C. Wurzer, medical director of Radiation Oncology at AtlantiCare, said there has been a rise in skin cancer associated with artificial ultraviolet light used by the tanning places people frequent.
"The typical scenario is someone wants to look healthier. They want to have a nice tan, and they are exposing themselves to very high doses of ultraviolet light, and they are doing this throughout the year," Wurzer said. "Not only does it cause premature aging to the skin and wrinkles down the road as well as other types of blemishes, it really increases the risk of having the development of a serious condition like skin cancer."
Some states are moving to restrict tanning. California and Vermont decided in 2011 and last year, respectively, to ban teens younger than age of 18 from tanning indoors.
The arrest of Patricia Krentcil, the notorious New Jersey "Tan Mom" for allegedly taking her 6-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, helped galvanize activists to push for legislation in this state.
Last year, the state Assembly passed legislation that prohibited minors younger than age 18 from using indoor tanning beds. The state Senate amended the legislation to allow those age 17 to use a tanning bed in a tanning facility as long as a parent or guardian was present for the initial consultation. The full Senate still needs to vote on its amendment. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, D-Essex, one of the measure's primary sponsors sees a vote taking place within the month.
Even with all this heat coming down on the indoor tanning industry, devoted southern New Jersey customers are not changing their behavior, and the owners of these salons are doing what they can to keep their business flowing.
Cassie Wingerter, 27, of Egg Harbor Township, picked up the indoor tanning habit from her mother, who does it all the time.
"It's always better to be tan," said Wingerter, who visits the tanning salon twice per week. "My skin can handle it. I never really burn."
Bill Roberts, Brigantine Island Tanning owner, said a person can do more harm by overexposing themselves on the beach where there is no control compared to a tanning salon where the longest exposure at any one time is 12 minutes. Roberts has operated his salon from 2006 to 2008 and again this past year. Roberts' busy time is from now until June with the busiest period being March to May.
"I've a girl, who works here, come in all burned up from the beach, and I went out and got her some aloe because I felt bad for her because she fell asleep. In a tanning salon, you don't see that happening," Roberts said.
Roberts keeps his customers coming back through a combination of his personal touch and specials.
It benefits his clients to give him not only phone numbers to reach them, but also email addresses. He makes his special offers through email only, which allows for an more interactive relationship with the salon.
Roberts called his customers to tell them he was back open after Hurricane Sandy and gave free tans to people who had a hard time after the storm.
John Overstreet, executive director of the Indoor Tanning Association in Washington D.C., said there is something about sitting on the beach in Cape May that makes people feel good about themselves and the way they feel that must override all the negative publicity suntanning receives.
"The bottom line is without the sun, without ultraviolet light, we will all die, so you have to have some. So then, the question is at what point is too much? What's too much and how much is too much for you versus too much for me? What if you don't have any? What are the risks," said Overstreet, who added there are risks and benefits with anything.
Missy Anzelone, 47, of Cape May Court House, has been tanning for the past 31 years. For most of that time, Anzelone visited the salon because she liked being tan. For the past seven years, she found suntanning helped her with the pain brought on by fibromyalgia.
"I don't ever like to be out in the hot sun. I would rather take eight minutes of the air conditioning than three hours of the sun. I don't get burned," Anzelone said.
The indoor suntanning industry thinks people should avoid being sunburned, but the anti-suntanning forces believe no exposure to ultraviolet light is good, said Joseph Levy, executive director of the International Smart Tan Network, an industry group.
There are about 14,000 professional tanning salons in the country that are part of a market that generates between $1.5 to $2 billion dollars annually, Levy said.
"The number of people who tan has been maintaining at 10 to 12 percent of the population," said Levy, who added the number of sun bed units has increased during the past 10 years. "This is part of the larger issue of how much sunlight should people be getting. We are trying to be an intelligent voice of reason in that discussion teaching a moderate approach to non-burning exposure."
Kirstie Kelleher, the Suntastic Tan owner, is a member of the Indoor Tanning Association and the International Smart Tan Network.
"There are going to be people who tan regardless whether they outlaw it or not. Somebody, somehow is going to figure out a way to do it," said Kelleher, who has been in business since 2009 and offers spray tanning and high-pressure tanning, which is less risk. "That's my biggest thing, not burning. If you burn, you are risking it .... It's a controlled duration. It's not like you are outside baking with baby oil, like my grandmother used to do."
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