Gym, Tan, Laundry--And Skin Cancer: Group Demands Warning on 'Jersey Shore' Reruns

By Susan Jones | January 18, 2013 | 11:59 AM EST

The cast of 'Jersey Shore.' (AP Photo)

( - The Skin Cancer Foundation, an educational group, has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against MTV for promoting tanning in its "Jersey Shore" program.

The Foundation accuses MTV of deceptively influencing viewers to engage in a cancer-causing activity in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. It is demanding that MTV, at the very least, include a warning about the risks of skin cancer when the show -- recently canceled -- goes into reruns.

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."

The Foundation says in the years since the show premiered, tanning beds have became a "disturbingly integral part" of Jersey Shore's story line. The series consistently portrayed tanning as acceptable and harmless, potentially influencing its millions of young viewers to engage in a dangerous activity.

"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," said Perry Robins, M.D., president and rounder 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."

To find out how much of a role tanning played in the series, the Foundation says it audited season three of "Jersey Shore" in its entirety, and episodes one, two, three and six of season five. The Foundation says it identified an alarming 186 visual or verbal references to tanning in just those 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.

The Foundation says MTV refused its request -- made at a Sept. 2012 meeting with MTV executives -- to include a warning with each episode. That prompted the Foundation to file its complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

"The Foundation has struggled with the disappointing messaging of this show for years," Robins said. "MTV should accept some responsibility for informing viewers about the hazards of the activities promoted in its programming. If a warning regarding tanning's health hazards is added to each episode and just one person heeds it, this endeavor is worthwhile," he said.

The Skin Cancer Foundation acknowledged in its news release that "it is not MTV's role to advocate or dismiss any particular activity or behavior." However, it also says the the network "has an impressionable demographic that happens to be a core part of the population at particular risk for skin cancer."

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, from 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men. It says each year, more than 9,000 people die from melanoma.