Many people go their entire lives without stumbling into a congressional office in Washington, D.C., for a meeting. American Suntanning Association President Melinda Norton isn’t most people. In the past five years, Norton has held thousands – that’s right, thousands – of meetings on your behalf in our nation’s capital.
“Our industry became an easy target years before ASA organized because we didn’t have representation in Washington,” said Norton in a June interview, just minutes before jumping on a Zoom call with – you guessed it – a congressional office. “We know now that we can never let down our guard or more attacks will be left unchallenged.”
ASA formed in 2013 to make sure professional sunbed facilities would not fall victim to the kinds of unopposed attacks that plagued this market for almost 20 years in Washington, D.C. Defending and promoting all the angles of our cause is tricky business – the science supports our position. But it’s not always an easy story for many in the Beltway to get their minds around.
Since becoming ASA president in 2015, Norton has led the charge. After five years and thousands of meetings with Norton – oftentimes with other ASA members brought in as guests – a sizable chunk of Congress now understands that professional tanning businesses are legitimate operators trying to overcome back-room political deals set in place over 20 years from the mid-1990s onward.
What that means: Not only is ASA protecting the future of professional sunbed operators, the group has a constant ear to the ground to head-off any potential future attacks against the indoor tanning industry. For Norton and the ASA team, the attacks from years back are all too fresh and the damage created still plagues our industry today.
As tanning business owners, we may not see the results of ASA’s Congressional efforts because the 10 percent tan tax hasn’t been repealed, or over-regulations haven’t been reversed. But that doesn’t mean important work to keep the industry protected doesn’t happen every day. “Today, my fulltime job is to reach as many people on Capitol Hill as possible, so they understand our story and appreciate how our industry has been unfairly maligned,” said Norton.
Without regular representation in Washington, our industry could easily fall prey to additional regulations without our input, as has happened many times in the past. “The first lesson I learned in Washington lobbying is that if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’ll be on the plate,” said Norton.
To truly appreciate the job the ASA is doing for the professional indoor tanning industry, take a look at our past experiences with federal and state governments to better understand how our industry was targeted.