A popular Texas tanning chain is shelling out a hefty sum to the state as a result of a five-year investigation by the Texas Attorney General's office that alleges Darque Tan made bogus claims about the benefits of tanning.
You probably remember the ads. They claimed tanning beds were a good source of vitamin D. After KPRC Local 2's undercover investigation and a state lawsuit, Darque Tan removed those ads. But it took five years to settle the case.
It's true that studies show vitamin D, found in milk and UV rays, reduces a person's risk of internal cancers. But doctors KPRC Local 2 spoke with said it is a huge leap to theorize that the UV rays in tanning beds would have the same effect.
"We would never in good conscious recommend that a patient go to a tanning bed," said Dr. Adelaide Hebert, a University of Texas Health Science Center dermatologist.
KPRC Local 2 Investigates sent interns wired with hidden cameras to five Houston Darque Tan locations in 2008 so viewers could hear the health claim first-hand.
"Just really, like, about five minutes in a level-one bed a day … if you're looking for like a vitamin D efficiency, then that's what you would need to get a good source of vitamin D to help with the internal cancers and stuff like that," one Darque Tan employee told a KPRC Local 2 intern.
The Texas Attorney General's Office sued Darque Tan in 2008 because the Texas Health Code prevents tanning facility operators from claiming the beds or safe or that they will result in any medical benefit.
"That, to me, is a basic denial of free speech," Darque Tan owner Robbie Segler said in 2008.
The Texas Attorney General's Office disagreed. On Monday, it settled the case, agreeing to drop the lawsuit in exchange for $141,520.44 and Darque Tan's agreement to not make health claims about its tanning beds.
The owner of Darque Tan pointed out that the state doesn't call the money a fine or a penalty and that Darque Tan never admitted it did anything wrong. He called the money a "nuisance fee" and said that tanning operators are making the vitamin D claim all over the country in other states.