Archived: Congressman: Affordable Care Act Tanning Tax Is Racist

By Chris Hoenig

A Florida congressman says a provision of the Affordable Care Act is racist because it discriminates against customers based on skin color.

Proving that it’s not always sunny in the Sunshine State, Representative Ted Yoho told the crowd at a town-hall meeting in Gainesville, Fla., that he and House Speaker John Boehner had a conversation about the 10 percent tax on indoor tanning and agreed that it discriminates against white people. “He goes, ‘I didn’t know it was in there,’ and I said, ‘Yes, it’s a 10 percent tax.'” Yoho told the crowd, recalling the exchange. “He goes, ‘Well, that’s not that big of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s a racist tax.’ He goes, ‘You know what It is.'”

“I had an Indian doctor in our office the other day, very dark skin, with two non-dark-skin people, and I said this to him and he started laughing. And I said, ‘Have you ever been to a tanning booth’ and he goes, ‘No, no need,'” Yoho said. “So therefor it’s a racist tax and I thought I might need to get to a sun-tanning booth so I can come out and say I’ve been disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin. As crazy as it sounds, that’s what the left does, right By God, if it works for them, it’ll work for us.”

The tax has been in effect since 2010 as a mechanism to help pay for the Affordable Care Act and has limited exceptions, including spray tanning and certain qualified physical-fitness facilities that do not charge separately for tanning. It is expected to bring in up to $2.7 billion through 2020. It’s also meant to help healthcare companies and the public itself: Research shows tanning beds triple or even quadruple the risk of melanoma, which is far more prevalent in whites, the top users of tanning beds. Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, is the third most common cancer in people ages 15 to 39.

Yoho is not the first Florida congressman to claim the tax is racist. Allen West, who is Black and did not win reelection in 2012, criticized the measure while on the campaign trail last year. “You want to talk about something that’s really racist They have a tanning tax,” West said. “I’m not tanning.”

The pair can apparently count Boehner among their ranks now. The House Speaker’s sun-kissed complexion is a long-running joke in the Capital Beltway and has even been the subject of polls (including one in which 30 percent of his constituents responded that he spends too much time working on his tan)—even though the Ohio-based Boehner says he’s never used an indoor tanning booth or bed.

A CITY100 survey found more tanning salons (73) in Jacksonville, Fla., than McDonald’s (51) and Starbucks (19) combined. That puts Jacksonville, which is just outside Yoho’s district, well ahead of the national average (42 salons per city). And these salons see plenty of traffic: Jacksonville has had 124 rainy days over the past year, which puts it right between the averages of Gainesville (Yoho’s district) and West Palm Beach (West’s former district).

For comparison, the sales tax on your Big Mac and Frappuccino in the Sunshine State ranges from 6 to 7.5 percent, depending on the county you’re in.

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