Jeannine Morris believes Cosmopolitan Magazine saved her life. And no, the glossy's patented sex tips had nothing to do with it.
Before 2006, Morris was a self-described tanorexic. At the time, orange was in and every superstar on the red carpet was out to prove it (remember the only bad picture Charlize Theron ever took?)
Then she landed her "dream job" as beauty assistant at Cosmo. "When I began working there full time, I began representing the brand," Morris tells Yahoo! Shine. "My director and editor mentioned to me several times that I needed to quit tanning and start living a healthier lifestyle because at Cosmopolitan we practiced safe sun and had to practice what we preached."
That same year, the magazine had launched a "Safe Sun Campaign" aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of too much sun exposure, with an emphasis on the damage caused by tanning beds. The initiative helped turn the TAN act into a law, regulating tanning equipment and the language used to warn consumers of indoor tanning devices. With skin cancer as the second most common cancer among women in their 20s, this measure directly affected Cosmo readers and, as it turned out, their staff.
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Ever since high school Morris was a UV addict, at one point visiting tanning salons daily and never wearing SPF sunscreen if she could help it.
"Tanning was more of a mental addiction for me," explains Morris. "I craved laying in the bed day after day. I needed to be as dark as I could potentially be at all times. To me at that time, that was beautiful."
But her regimen didn't coincide with her first job as beauty assistant at the women's magazine.
"The more I learned as a beauty writer, the more I understood where [my editors] were coming from," she says. "There was no ultimatum, but I didn't think twice when they told me that tanning beds weren't accepted."
So she decided to kick the tan cold turkey. "When I quit I immediately began feeling fat and unattractive," Morris recalls, "even though my weight didn't change." During what Morris calls her "withdrawal" time she spent a lot of hours at the gym, realizing her tan contributed to her overall body perception. "It was all in my head," she said. She also went to several dermatologists and quickly found out the risk she was taking for so many years. Sun bed users under 30 increase their lifetime risk of melanoma by 75 percent, according to research backed by the World Health Organization.
Six years later, the now 29-year-old blogger at BeautySweetSpot.com says her skin has aged prematurely and wrinkled around her eyes because of her former passion. But she's grateful she avoided more serious problems. "I guess you can say I've been embracing my paleness," she tells Shine. Not that she's opposed to a good self-tanner from a bottle now and then.
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After the Daily Mail and the New York Post picked up on her story this week, she emailed her old boss, Cosmo's Editor-In-Chief, Kate White, "to say thank you."
She's waiting on a response. Despite the fact that Morris has nothing but gratitude for her old job's stance on sun protection, the no-tanning on the job 'demand' has raised eyebrows.
"Cosmopolitan does not have a 'no-tanning' policy, and we did not give Jeannine an ultimatum. We are one of the leaders in the coverage of women's health issues, and the safety of our readers and our staff is of the utmost importance," a Cosmo spokesperson told Shine. "Our 'Practice Safe Sun' campaign, which began in 2006, warns women of the spike in melanoma as a result of tanning bed use, and our efforts led to the passage of the Federal Tan Act. Our readers repeatedly tell us how we have empowered them to live their best lives ever, and we're glad that Jeannine feels that we were helpful in saving hers."
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In recent years, some companies have taken the controversial step of banning workers from smoking or even smelling of smoke on the job. "There really aren't any laws telling employers they can't create prohibition policies if they want to," Lewis Maltby, a workers' rights attorney told CBSNews of the smoke-free policy. "It's not right . . . but it's not illegal."
Though tanning beds have come under fire in recent months -- California bans those under 18 from sun beds and other states are pushing for similar measures -- they haven't yet entered the workplace policy debate.
In fact, an Oklahoma company, Chesapeak Energy, provides free tanning beds on its campus, according to a 2011 CNBC report.
As tempting as that perk may have once been for Morris, she's grateful for her first employer's sun protective stance. "I literally think that that job may have saved my life," she says.
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