Shining a Light on the Tanning Industry's Spin Machine

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Using a training video that shows God sending a doctor to hell for warning about SPF and preaching about the toxicity of chemical sunscreen are part of a growing effort by the tanning salon industry to change public opinion about tanning for the better. As a report by Fair Warning's Bridget Huber found, these efforts comes from an industry group called the International Smart Tan Network, whose Facebook page is covered with wisely spun, pro-tanning messages like, "Avoiding Sunlight Harmful,"  "Medical Journal Touts Vitamin D,"  and "Tans are Nature's Sunblock." And check out this training/recruitment video from International Smart Tan entitled "Introducing the Sun Scare industry": 

Even if you didn't make it through the entire video, the connection between this pro-tanning agency's tactics and those of Big Tobacco is clear: Both use research to undermine warnings from medical officials. But there's also another twist: International Smart Tan isn't afraid to point sell the tobacco industry out, and show how easily they paid and manipulated doctors, doctors who, they want you to believe, are the same ones telling you not to go tanning. Add in the God and D-Angel (as in Vitamin D) talk, and cult-like talk of "A Call to Action", and it gets even more disturbing. At the same time this spin (mind you that this is an industry that has no problem lying to teenagers) is so wacky, it's actually sort of  riveting (and, no not just for their Tan Mom defense). Especially since their training videos sound like this, as Huber reports:

A doctor in a white lab coat stands at the pearly gates. The voice of God booms, “And your good deeds?” The man responds, “Well, as a dermatologist, I’ve been warning people that sunlight will kill them and that it’s as deadly as smoking.”

His smug smile fades as God snaps, “You’re saying that sunlight, which I created to keep you alive, give you vitamin D and make you feel good, is deadly? And the millions of dollars you received from chemical sunscreen companies had nothing to do with your blasphemy?”

A bottle of SPF 1000 sunscreen materializes in the dermatologist’s hand. “You’ll need that where you’re going,” God says.

The rest of Huber's report can be found at FairWarning, a nonprofit public interest journalism site, here.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.