In Ohio, Too Fat to Tan?

by Alexandra Owens


Getty ImagesGetty ImagesAirplane seats, ambulances, and even school desks have been adapted to suit the needs of the obese. But it looks like there's at least one type of business that hasn't caught up with the BMI equality movement: tanning salons. Last week Kelly McGrevey, a customer at Aloha Tanning in Ohio, went to the press after she was turned away due to her weight. "[The Aloha employee] said, 'Sorry, but I'm not going to let you tan today because we've just implemented a new policy whereanyone over 230 pounds can't go in one of our beds,' " McGrevey told reporters. "It really upset me. It's discrimination. He asked if I was aware of how many times he had to replace the acrylic on those beds because of heavy people."

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In fact, Aloha's policy isn't that unusual: Other tanning salons have implemented weight limits because the clear acrylic sheets that top the bed's fluorescent bulbs can crack under pressure (how much pressure depends on the manufacturer). So any business that wants to welcome customers of all sizes without jeopardizing its equipment can invest in thick acrylic or standing booths.

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If that is what people like McGrevey desire, they should be allowed to have it (insert usual spiel about autonomy and freedom here). But they should also be aware of the double risk they're taking. Obesity is associated with a weakened immune system and various types of cancer, while tanning beds have shown to increase the rate of melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, by 74 percent. So if someone tells you that you're too fat to use a tanning bed, maybe take it as a sign. Science shows it's a lose-lose proposition anyway.

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