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

Posted: January 23, 2013

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The Skin Cancer Foundation is demanding that MTV, at the very least, include a warning about the risks of skin cancer with the show, its advertising, promotion and merchandising.

“While experts have long suspected a link between skin cancer and tanning beds, it was not until a few years ago that we had research studies definitively showing a connection. The fact is, tanning beds cause skin cancer,” says Perry Robins, president and founder of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “As the series progressed over the years, displays of tanning behaviors grew in frequency along with the cast’s influence over viewers, to the point where the expression ‘Gym, Tan, Laundry’ became a national catchphrase. The repeated and ongoing references to tanning as a harmless activity are dangerous and hazardous to the public’s health,” Robins adds.

In February 2010, after season one, the foundation staged an intervention that aired nationally on the television show Extra, which resulted in the cast members pledging to change their behavior. Despite this pledge, frequent and persistent tanning references were made by cast members throughout the life of the Jersey Shore series, says the foundation. It adds that, “The coverage quickly grew beyond neutral storytelling and developed into thematic, recurring promotion of tanning.”

The foundation audited season three of Jersey Shore in its entirety, and episodes one, two, three and six of season five. It says it identified 186 visual or verbal references to tanning in just these 17 episodes. This includes 12 specific mentions of “G.T.L.” (“Gym, Tan, Laundry”) and 48 images of tanning (including a photo of a tanning parlor in the opening credits of each episode) in season three alone. In just the four episodes of season five that the foundation reviewed, there were 77 total references to tanning, including 11 mentions of G.T.L. and 20 images of tanning beds.

Additionally, the foundation claims that MTV’s online games and promotions encourage fans to live the Jersey Shore lifestyle by purchasing G.T.L. products. Also, it says, aside from the occasional sunburn, “The cast never seriously discusses the risks of tanning or the danger associated with tanning. For example, in Episode 13 of season two, cast member Paul DelVecchio ‘Pauly D’ enthusiastically nominated himself ‘Most Likely to Get Skin Cancer.’”