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Skin Cancer Foundation Hits MTV's Jersey Shore With an FTC Complaint

Posted: January 23, 2013

MTV's Jersey Shore television series and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino’s “GTL: Gym, Tan, Laundry” mantra has prompted the Skin Cancer Foundation to take further action to stop pro-tanning messages.

Although the Skin Cancer Foundation's Senior Vice President, Deborah S. Sarnoff, has sat down in 2010 with the cast of MTV's hit show on magazine show Extra to discuss the dangers of tanning in an effort to put an end to the "GTL" motto, which was later followed by intervention with the network’s executives in 2012, the Skin Cancer Foundation has now taken legal action, urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to hold MTV accountable for promoting “cancer-causing behavior.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation yesterday filed a formal complaint with the FTC, asking that the FTC use its authority under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to investigate MTV’s Jersey Shore television series and related promotional initiatives. The complaint was filed with the FTC by Sanders Ortoli Vaughn-Flam Rosenstadt (SOVR) LLP, on behalf of The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Specifically, the foundation says that in the years since the show premiered, tanning beds, a known carcinogen, became a disturbingly integral part of Jersey Shore’s narrative. The foundation claims the series consistently portrayed tanning as acceptable and harmless, potentially influencing its young viewers to engage in a dangerous activity. Though the series recently wrapped up, the foundation claims the show will live on through spin-offs and repeats, “continuing to expose an impressionable audience to disturbing behaviors with no disclaimer.”

The complaint alleges that MTV utilized a complex web of programming, advertising, promotion and merchandising to glamorize and endorse excessive tanning as socially enhancing and beneficial, through use of the cast’s “Gym, Tan, Laundry” ritual, without disclosing the related health risks, which the foundation claim is deceptively influencing viewers to engage in a cancer-causing activity in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.