Indoor Tanning Association Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers About Skin Cancer Risks From Tanning

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission today charged the Indoor Tanning Association with making false health and safety claims about indoor tanning. Contrary to claims in the association’s advertising, indoor tanning increases the risk of squamous cell and melanoma skin cancers, according to the FTC complaint. The association has agreed to a settlement that bars it from any further deception.

“The messages promoted by the indoor tanning industry fly in the face of scientific evidence,” said David C. Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The industry needs to do a better job of communicating the risks of tanning to consumers.”

The Indoor Tanning Association represents tanning facilities and suppliers of tanning equipment. The FTC complaint alleges that in March 2008, the association launched an advertising campaign designed to portray indoor tanning as safe and beneficial. The campaign included two national newspaper ads, television and video advertising, two Web sites, a communications guide, and point-of-sale materials that were provided to association members for distribution in local markets. In addition to denying the skin cancer risks of tanning, the campaign allegedly also made these false claims:

  • Indoor tanning is approved by the government;
  • Indoor tanning is safer than tanning outdoors because the amount of ultraviolet light received when tanning indoors is monitored and controlled;
  • Research shows that vitamin D supplements may harm the body’s ability to fight disease; and
  • A National Academy of Sciences study determined that “the risks of not getting enough ultraviolet light far outweigh the hypothetical risk of skin cancer.”

The complaint also alleges that the association failed to disclose material facts in its advertising.

Under its settlement with the Commission, the association is prohibited from making the
misrepresentations challenged in the complaint, from misrepresenting any tests or studies, and from providing deceptive advertisements to members. The settlement also requires that future association ads that make safety or health benefits claims for indoor tanning may not be misleading and must be substantiated. Further, the order requires that certain future advertisements from the association contain disclosures. Ads that make claims about the safety or health benefits of indoor tanning are required to clearly and prominently make this disclosure:

“NOTICE: Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer and can cause serious eye injury.”

Ads that claim exposure to ultraviolet radiation produces vitamin D in the body, or make other claims about the effectiveness or usefulness of indoor tanning products or services for the body’s generation of vitamin D, must clearly and prominently make this disclosure:

“NOTICE: You do not need to become tan for your skin to make vitamin D. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation may increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer and can cause serious eye injury.”

For more information about how indoor or outdoor tanning increases the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer, read the FTC Consumer Alert Indoor Tanning at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt174.pdf

The Commission vote to approve the administrative complaint and proposed consent agreement was 4-0. The FTC will publish an announcement regarding the agreement in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through February 26, 2010, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. To file a public comment, please click on the following hyperlink: https://public.commentworks.com/ftc/indoortanningassoc and follow the instructions at that site.

Copies of the complaint, the proposed consent agreement, and an analysis of the
agreement to aid in public comment are available from both the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

(FTC File No. 0823159)
(Indoor Tanning.wpd)

Contact Information

MEDIA CONTACT:
Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs

202-326-3707
STAFF CONTACT:
Janet Evans
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-2125