They both have claimed to be healthy. They both have targeted young people. Both are addictive and yet one is heavily regulated while the other is not. Tanning salons and cigarette manufacturers share many of the same bad habits and yet only one of them is regulated. That looks set to change as New York State attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, filed lawsuits against two popular indoor tanning salon chains on Thursday.

The lawsuits accuse the chains of playing down the health hazards associated with indoor tanning and promoting the practice as a healthful activity.

Authorities said that the two chains, Portofino Spas and Total Tan, have violated state laws against deceptive business practices by making statements on their websites and in advertisements suggesting that indoor tanning is both safe and good for your health.

The chains cited health benefits of increased vitamin D production and reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. There is no medical to data to suggest any of these is actually true, according to the lawsuit.

Increasingly, health agencies and experts are taking issue with the practice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that indoor tanning causes aging of the skin and several types of skin cancer, including the most deadly, melanoma. A comprehensive study last year estimated that indoor tanning contributed to 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States each year.

“Indoor tanning exposes users to two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB, which damage the skin and can lead to cancer,” the CDC. says on its website. The agency warns that indoor tanning also raises the risk of blinding eye diseases when eye protection isn’t used, and states that while vitamin D is important for good health, the safest way to obtain it is through food.

In his lawsuit against Portofino Spas, which has five Portofino Sun Center locations in New York City, Mr. Schneiderman said that the company had made statements on its website denying a link between cancer and tanning. “Conflicting data exist questioning the UV-melanoma relationship,” one of the statements cited in the lawsuit reads. “Some independent dermatology researchers question whether UV and melanoma are related at all.”

Brian C. Mahoney, a partner at Harris Beach, the law firm that represents Total Tan, said the company denied the allegations in the AG’s complaint and that it had consulted with a business professor at Siena College. The professor, claims the company, did not find any of its claims about vitamin D “misleading or otherwise deceptive.”

The company also claimed that it was a “small, upstate, family-owned business that refuses to be intimidated by Mr. Schneiderman, who is trying to impose his own view of the world on our industry.”

User of tanning salons should be reminded of history. Not long ago cigarette companies were touting the health benefits of their products and attempting so skirt regulation. Regardless of who owns the business if its dangerous, which tanning clearly is, it should be carefully regulated so that users are fully aware of any and all associated dangers.

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