Snooki, Tans, Tax and more

October 31, 2011

Political Theory


For those who were religious viewers of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” (Season 4 is over…sadface), will remember when Nicole Polizzi aka “Snooki” stated, “I don’t go tanning anymore because Obama put a 10% tax on tanning…”  This truly was a “Situation” for both tanning lovers and owners of tanning salons.  The Obama administration placed a 10% tax on individuals receiving indoor tanning services in an attempt to fund the health care overhaul.  The Obama administration placed a 10% tax on individuals receiving indoor tanning services in an attempt to fund the health care overhaul.

Snooki switching over to spray tanning due to the 10% placed on tanning beds

The 10% tanning tax is a result of replacing the 5% tax on cosmetic surgery that was originally introduced in the bill.  Lawmakers removed the so-called “Botax” on cosmetic procedures, such as Botox and breast implants.  If the bill passed, doctors would’ve been asked to collect tax on surgical procedures regardless of whether the procedure was covered by insurance.  In any event the doctors don’t collect the tax, they would be responsible or paying it.

Tanning beds have become a huge phenomenon in the Western culture probably because the sun kissed look is considered to be attractive to many people.  However, this is not the case in South Korea.  Instead, South Koreans are highly interested in looking more Western-like with big eyes and high nose bridges.  Recognized worldwide as the most technically advanced in “aesthetic” medicine, the capital of South Korea, Seoul, has become the mecca for cosmetic surgery.  People from all over the world travel to the capital to receive their nips and tucks.  Previously, plastic surgery was exempt from value added tax (VAT), but the Ministry of Strategy and Finance implemented the new tax in July 2010.  Like the tanning tax, a 10% tax was placed on cosmetic surgery.  From eyelid surgery to nose jobs, all cosmetic procedures not covered by the national health insurance will have inflated prices.

A South Korean plastic surgeon creating double eyelids, one of the most popular procedure in Asian culture

The public’s reaction was not so pretty.  Immediately after the unveiling of the new tax revision plan, physicians and patients along with tax experts argued that instituting such a tax is unreasonable.  They argued that the medical practice isn’t done only to enhance one’s beauty but to treat other problems such as depression and inferiority complexes.  In other words, why should one be punished because they want to cope with their insecurities?  Inevitably, this new tax is detrimental to both the surgeons and the clients.

So, do you think government should be allowed to impose new taxes like the “vanity” or tanning tax?  If so, under what circumstances?  Lastly, are  these taxes really going to be effective towards producing revenue?

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6 Comments on “Snooki, Tans, Tax and more”

  1. elyssashea Says:

    Well, if one were to go with the beliefs of Locke, then the government should not be allowed to impose “vanity” taxes. In a state of nature, Locke finds that the most threatened thing is property. Therefore, when people enter into a system with codified laws by the government, they expect that their property will be protected above all else. So, if the government is imposing vanity taxes upon it’s people, then it is in fact not protecting the property of many people. Loosely defined, “property” might encompass a person’s wealth, or their ability to accumulate wealth through their profession. As was said, this tax is therefore detrimental to surgeons because many people might not want to pay more for cosmetic procedure due to the tax, and therefore they forego the procedure all together. This would result in a loss of revenue for surgeons, and therefore is harmful to their property. As for the patients themselves, isn’t it in their natural rights, which include liberty, to decide to undergo whatever procedures they so chose? Again, by that logic a tax would be unjust.

    On the other hand, I personally believe that there should be an additional measure created to delineate between absurdly unhealthy practices like tanning versus medically-necessary “cosmetic” procedures. Considering that tanning is so explicitly linked to cancer, it just seems absolutely ridiculous to me.

  2. danieltarockoff Says:

    Honestly, I actually think it’s a pretty good idea. The government should tax any and all things that are not “necessities.” The people that can afford such expensive cosmetic surgeries shouldn’t have a problem covering a 10% tax on top of that anyways. The way I see it, if there are luxuries on the market, it’s a great opportunity for the government to make more revenue off of them. If a product or procedure is desired enough, taxing it isn’t going to make people stop pursuing it. I think, for instance, that the government is right in taxing cigarettes, alcohol, and sure, why not cosmetic surgery. As long as the taxes remain on luxury goods rather then necessities such as food or clothes, I don’t see a problem.

    I think this taxing procedure should also be implemented in the imminent legalization of Marijuana. There is a lot of debate as to how legalizing Marijuana could improve our economy, and I think this point is especially true if Marijuana were heavily taxed. It’s not a matter of whether the pro-legalization people think it should be expensive or not (I’m sure that will be a whole new issue altogether soon enough), but more so just on the aspect of legalization. If the government passed a law legalizing weed, they could tax it heavily and dramatically improve the economy as well as open up new jobs for people as growers and sellers.

    As long as these taxes are used only on purposes that are not necessities, I don’t see a problem with them.

  3. emilyloz Says:

    Tax away. Everything that can pretty much harm us in someway or is not a necessity is most likely going to be taxed sooner or later. Luxuries could be withdrawn from our lives and we would all be okay. Society relies too much on materialistic things. Why can’t we be happy with the color/shade of our skin or the way our bodies/faces are shaped? In agreement with danieltarockoff, if one has the money to afford such expensive luxuries, and is willing to pay money to ‘try’ and fix it, then 10% isn’t going to hurt that much.

    Also, with government taxing, similar to Snooki’s story, I’m sure there is a study out there informing us of how much society has stopped making purchases due to the extra cost. This just comes to show the importance of certain luxuries if people aren’t will to pay the extra 10%

    The government does and says a lot of things that I don’t agree with, but taxing harmful and potentially life threatening services is definitely not a big problem in my eyes.

  4. ajnovo Says:

    I agree with the taxing. Americans (and apparently South Koreans) are obsessed with beauty and it makes sense to tax goods that people are buying to help our economy especially since none of these surgeries/procedures are necessary. Plus if people are unhappy with the taxes, they can always travel to different countries.

    Thailand is the place to go if you want a sex change because in the United States there are regulations and the process as a whole takes several years since doctors want ensure that they patient knows what changing sex is like while doctors in Thailand ask less questions. Costa Rica also has a booming medical tourism industry since it is a short plane ride away, relatively safe, doctors are well educated and patients can have a surgery then recuperate on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. As someone mentioned earlier, these people probably have the money to pay the tax anyway, and if they don’t want to, they can always travel to a different country.

    Obama should be taxing what people are buying to save our economy, and if tanning becomes too expensive for Snooki, maybe she could try some self tanner.

  5. lukeythekid Says:

    Tanning and cosmetic surgery are luxuries, and are thus a target for taxes. Arguments for inferiority complexes as ailments which require necessary surgery are ridiculous; what if people felt inferior if they didn’t have the latest style of clothing? Could we still claim that we need these products to function in society? I have no problem with cosmetic surgery and people should absolutely be free to try and reinvent themselves, but they need to pay for it. Can’t afford it? Too bad. I would love to go under the knife for a few hours and wake up looking like Brad Pitt in “Fight Club” but I wouldn’t expect to get away with it cheaply.
    However, the one exception for cosmetic surgery should be for those people with serious deformities. I know that some people would try and get away with using that as an excuse, but I am talking about extreme cases like harelips or deformities such as terrible scars and the result of birth defects or accidents. Looking too eastern is not an excuse for this exemption.
    As for the taxes’ effectiveness, I believe that it could generate a rather large amount of revenue. People who use these services (at least in the US) tend to generally be wealthier and would use them even with a 10% tax. In addition, many people who tan regularly are almost addicted and are unwilling to give up this lifestyle, afraid that not tanning or getting other cosmetic work done could jeopardize their identity.

  6. godzillagti Says:

    I feel that plastic surgery should be taxable. Plastic surgery is unlike that of any other type of surgery. Other types of surgeries are to help a person with a physical health problem such as a ruptured spleen or a severed artery, but not plastic surgery. Plastic surgery is for when people want to change their outward appearance even though there is nothing physically wrong with them. I see it as people giving themselves a gift. I’ve seen it happen before as well, girls getting breast implants for their eighteenth birthday. Breast implants are almost becoming the equivalent of a brand new car for some young adults. The thing with plastic surgery is that it is a luxury, it isn’t necessary. Some may say that it is because it helps with depression and self-esteem, but there are many other ways of treating those sorts of things that could be covered by health insurance. Because plastic surgery is a luxury, I think that it should definitely be taxable. I feel that tanning is the same way, it is something that is not necessary for living a healthy life. Whether these taxes are going to produce revenue is debatable. Some may take the Snooki route and go to alternatives such as spray tanning or they may accept the tax increase in order to get the look they want. Either way, people are always going to focus on their outer appearance and therefore plastic surgery and other superficial aides will be a good source of revenue for a long time to come.

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