Settlement With Portofino Spas, LLC Is Latest In A Series of Settlements That Crack Down On Tanning Salon Companies Making Health Misrepresentations: Office Continues To Investigate Misleading Health Claims Made By Other Businesses
Schneiderman: This Agreement Is A Continuation Of My Office’s Efforts To Protect Consumers From The Known Risks Associated With Indoor Tanning
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a court-ordered settlement with Portofino Spas, LLC, a New York Company that provides indoor tanning services at 5 Manhattan locations, which resolves a lawsuit filed by the Attorney General in April 2015 over the misrepresenting the health effects of indoor tanning. The agreement prohibits Portofino from making health claims and ensures the company will comply with New York State and New York City tanning regulations. Portofino has agreed to pay $300 per day for any future health misrepresentations and for each future violation of New York tanning laws. The Attorney General’s office has already cracked down on several companies making similar misleading health-related claims regarding the harms and benefits of indoor tanning.
“This agreement is a continuation of my office’s efforts to protect consumers from the known risks associated with indoor tanning. Businesses cannot and should not profit by misleading consumers as to purported health benefits of this harmful activity,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.
Skin cancer, which includes melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, is the most common of all cancers in the United States with more than 3.5 million skin cancers in over 2 million people diagnosed annually. About 600 New Yorkers die from skin cancer each year and 77% of those deaths are attributed to melanoma. 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 laws currently prohibit tanning for children under 17 and require 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 must 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 consensus opinions of the scientific and medical communities about the dangers of indoor UV tanning, Portofino’s used its website and social media outlets to make a series of claims that falsely:
1) minimized or denied the link between tanning and increased cancer risk,
2) represented the benefits of vitamin D as well as other purported health benefits associated with tanning, or
3) asserted the safety of indoor tanning compared to tanning outdoors.
Portofino used statements such as “There actually is no clear direct experimental evidence showing a causative mechanism between tanning and melanoma,” “Getting enough vitamin D is linked to reductions in heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis & many cancers -- are you getting enough?” and “Control is key – and it’s only possible within the environment of a certified, indoor tanning salon.” These claims, which were not supported, led consumers to believe that indoor tanning is not only risk-free and does not lead to increased risk of skin cancer, 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.
During a visit to a Portofino salon, an Attorney General representative was was told that if she wanted to become darker, then tanning in a bed is safer because “at least inside, it was controlled” and she would know how much time she could stay in the bed. Portofino’s safety claims are in contrast to the scientific evidence in that tanning devices like the ones used by Portofino expose consumers to UV radiation that is far stronger than natural sunlight — producing UV rays up to 15 times more intense than the sun, frequently resulting in burning. Additionally, Attorney General Investigators found that Portofino violated New York States tanning laws by failing to provide current tanning hazards and consent forms, as well as failing to post the New York State-required warning signs near all tanning devices.
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. Early this year in August, the Attorney General reached a court-approved settlement with Total Tan, Inc., a New York Company with indoor tanning services at 25 locations across upstate New York and three locations in Pennsylvania. The Total Tan settlement prohibits Total Tan from making health misrepresentations and from failing to comply with New York State tanning regulations.
The office continues to have ongoing investigations open into health claims made by tanning salons.
The Portofino lawsuit was handled by the Health Care Bureau’s Assistant Attorney General Brant Campbell, Volunteer Attorney Laura Puhala, the Environmental Protection Bureau’s Assistant Attorney General Laura Mirman-Heslin and the Consumer Fraud and Protection Bureau’s Assistant Attorney General Kate Matuschak. Environmental Scientist Charles Silver, Ph.D. of the Environmental Protection Bureau provided additional scientific and research support in development of the tanning investigation and the lawsuits. The Health Care Bureau is led by Lisa Landau, the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is led by Jane Azia, and the Environmental Protection Bureau is led by Lemuel Srolovic. The Health Care and Environmental Protection Bureaus are in the Division of Social Justice led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Alvin Bragg. The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is in the Division of Economic Justice led Manisha M. Sheth.
Consumers with questions or concerns about health care matters may call the Attorney General’s Health Care Bureau Helpline at 1-800-428-9071.