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We’re Taxing Tanning Booths, So Why Not Nail Salons?

One of the many features of the Health Care Bill that Nancy Pelosi was oh-so-anxious that we boobs find out about is a new 10% tax on tanning services. That one somehow slipped past most Americans as they watched the President’s promised coverage of the health care deliberations on CSPAN.

(*Clears throat*)

Most “progressive” initiatives have a “Women and Minorities Hardest Hit” angle. This victim-du-jour is less appealing: “Middle- and Upper-Middle Class White Women Hardest Hit”.

If the TanningTax is such a good idea, why not extend it to nail salons? Forget about going in; have you ever walked past a nail salon with the door open? You wouldn’t dare light a match — between the polishes and removers, nail salons use every volatile hydrocarbon that has an MSDS sheet, and probably some that don’t.

Based strictly on empirical observation, it must be illegal for anyone other than an Asian woman to own a nail salon, or work in one, so you’ve got the “Minorities Hardest Hit” angle covered. (Seriously, an organization called the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum says that “…42% of all nail technicians nationwide are Asian, with Vietnamese women comprising 39% of the entire industry…”.) And then there are the customers: I’ve seen plenty of fast food & convenience store clerks who look like they take the lion’s share of their weekly paychecks to maintain an outlandish set of artificial 2″ lunch-hooks. 

This, from the MSDS Sheet for acetone, a component of polish remover:

Emergency Overview
————————–
DANGER! EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE LIQUID AND VAPOR. VAPOR MAY CAUSE FLASH FIRE. HARMFUL IF SWALLOWED OR INHALED. CAUSES IRRITATION TO SKIN, EYES AND RESPIRATORY TRACT. AFFECTS CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM.

In my industry, oil and gas extraction, there have been concerns (as in, lawsuits claiming damages in the hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars) about worker exposure to benzene, “naturally occurring radioactive materials” (“NORMs”), and other compounds in low concentrations, with workers subject to infrequent exposure. Right now the EPA is looking at regulating trace additives in fracturing fluids that, in 1,000,000 applications, have never been proven to contaminate ground water.

In nail salons, the exposure is constant and impossible to avoid. Many of the workers in this industry work long hours, seven days a week.

When it comes to chemical exposure, I’d much rather take my chances in an oil field environment than in a nail salon. For that matter, I’d rather a tanning.

Why has this gone on so long? It’s because of a well-funded lobby and an EPA exemption. The cosmetics industry, or “Big Polish”, has historically (since the 1930s) been regulated by the FDA, and has so far avoided EPA oversight.

Here’s the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum’s position paper on the issue.

Despite the snark, all the facts in the foregoing are true. What do I really think?

  • There’s a whole lot of crap just like this TanningTax buried in the health care bill; we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.
  • All new punitive lifestyle taxes are repugnant, especially ones with an identifiable “racialist” or “classist” angle.
  • EPA’s regulatory attention does not always reflect the hazard, but rather the perceived deep pockets of the regulatee.

Cross-posted at VladEnBlog.

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