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Tanning Industry Calls Warnings A "Sun Scare" Conspiracy By Doctors

If you're a dermatologist or physician who has warned patients about the dangers of tanning, you've been been labled part of "the Sun Scare people" who are "just like Big Tobacco, lying for money and killing people".

The tanning indusrty is changing the debate, moving the discussion from tanning's risks to a "deadly epidemic of vitamin D deficiendy and positioning itself as the more trustworthy source of information on tannings health effects.

Evidently the tanning indusrty is taking a page out of the big tabacco's book and now targeting physicians as part of a conspiracty out to protect their own financial interests, as well as using a few willing doctors to tout their own position.

Fairwarning.or has posted an article that you can read here: Burned By Health Warnings, Defiant Tanning Industry Assails Doctors, 'Sun Scare' Conspiracy

In the video, Levy is explicit about what salon employees are allowed to say at work and what they should say on their own time. He encourages the D-Angels to follow what he calls the “Clark Kent/Superman” model. Inside the salon, employees should be Clark Kents who refrain from making health claims about vitamin D and direct clients to industry websites that make pro-tanning claims that are carefully calibrated to stay inside legal bounds. Beyond salon walls, however, employees can spread their wings, becoming superheroes who expose the lies of sunscreen manufacturers and dermatologists and share the vitamin D gospel. “Outside the salon, you can be a D-Angel,” Levy says in the video. “You can promote a message to your friends and neighbors that the Sun Scare people are just like Big Tobacco, lying for money and killing people.”

This video, part of Smart Tan's D-Angel Empowerment training program for indoor tanning salon employees, attempts to undermine the credibility of the tanning industry's critics and claiming that "dermatologists profit from lies about chemical sunscreens and melanoma."

Some other interesting notes I found from the Fairwarning post:

  • Posing as fair-skinned teenagers, undercover investigators phoned 300 salons nationwide and found 90 percent of employees they spoke with said tanning did not pose a health risk. What’s more, 51 percent denied that sunbeds increase cancer risk.
  • The website for the Vitamin D Foundation, for example, discloses no industry affiliation, though 2010 tax documents reveal that its top personnel were all people in the business. In addition to Levy, they include the CEO of Beach Bum Tanning, a chain with 53 salons, and the president of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association, who also owns a large chain of salons.
  • The industry also takes aim at its critics’ integrity using an approach that Berman has called “shoot the messenger.” The line “What cigarette do you smoke, doctor?” taken from a vintage television ad claiming more doctors smoked Camels than any other brand, is a refrain in the D-Angel training video. Levy uses this and other ads to portray the medical profession in general as having shilled for the tobacco industry. While the American Medical Association pocketed industry money, and some tobacco companies claimed that doctors endorsed their brands, Levy makes the dubious assertion that the medical profession broadly endorsed smoking as healthful. He contends that physicians continue to endanger public health in the interest of profits.

    Levy, more specifically, says dermatologists, sunscreen manufacturers and anti-cancer groups spread a “fear based message” that spurs sunscreen sales, sells ads in glossy fashion magazines and sends frightened people to the doctor for skin checks.

    “What if there’s a new and powerful coalition marketing health care products that could kill more people than tobacco did?” Levy asks in the video. “It’s happening again. This is the mega-billion dollar Sun Scare industry. And it’s no longer tobacco that they’re selling. Today, it’s chemical sunscreen and an anti-UV message designed to tell you that any UV exposure is bad for you. It’s the same thing as doctors being arm-in-arm with Big Tobacco.”

    Asked to defend this statement, Levy provided no direct evidence of a plot. Instead, he referred to a study that suggested if Americans increased their vitamin D levels, nearly 400,000 premature deaths per year could be prevented – about the same number of premature deaths that, federal health authorities said, are caused by tobacco. But Lazovich said the study cited by Levy was based on unclear calculations and “cherry picked” data.

Videos from sunshine on Vimeo.

Reader Comments (2)

Always nice to hear doctors being aligned with big tobacco. Almost unreal in the absurdity.

08.23 | Unregistered CommenterChabela106

I do believe that widespread Vitamin D deficiency is due, at least in part, to generous use of sunscreen and our mainly indoor lifestyle. Regular sunlight exposure in moderation is good for all of us. However, the idea that there is no evidence linking sun exposure, or tanning in particular, to melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer is a tough pill to swallow.

Great article and a very timely topic. Thank you.

Stephen Weber, M.D.

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