Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
A new government bill that places greater restrictions on the tanning industry is receiving glowing reviews from local health agencies and even some of the local businesses that it will impact.
The Skin Cancer Prevention Act received third reading in the Ontario legislature on Tuesday and was passed Wednesday. It prohibits youth under the age 18 from accessing indoor tanning equipment in the province. Places of business that offer tanning services will also be required to ID anyone under the age of 25 and post signs warning clients about the health risks.
Prince Edward Island, Quebec, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland had already enacted similar restrictions for minors.
“We're very excited,” Dianne Mohr, manager of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Huron-Perth unit, told the Gazette. “This is something the cancer society has been working towards for more than seven years.”
The cancer society has been advocating at Queen’s Park for tougher tanning laws since 2005, when volunteers for the organization met with MPPs to inform them about the believed dangers associated with indoor tanning and exposure to UV rays, particularly for youth. Since then volunteers have participated in numerous letter-writing campaigns and made presentations at municipal council meetings, helping pass three indoor tanning bylaws across the province.
The new law comes into effect just over four years after the Agency for Research on Cancer, a department of the World Health Organization, upgraded the classification of UV radiation emitting devices like tanning beds from a probable carcinogen to a known carcinogen.
An April 2012 Ipsos Reid survey commissioned by the cancer society found that eight per cent, or one in 10, youth in Ontario uses a tanning bed, up from five per cent six years earlier.
Mohr said the new bill will play a significant role towards reducing the number of cases of melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer - in youth. She noted melanoma is currently the second most common cancer amongst Canadians ages 15-34.
“Melanoma is preventable and avoidable; we know how you get it,” Mohr added. “(So) it's definitely a good step getting people (to stop using tanning beds) when they're young.”
As an additional component to the Skin Cancer Prevention Ac t, self-serve tanning facilities have been restricted. Tanning must be controlled by someone who is knowledgeable in the administration of UV light.
According to the three tanning businesses contacted by the Gazette, the new restrictions aren’t expected to have a major impact on the industry’s bottom line.
Naomi Rose, part owner of Perfect Son Tanning Studio in Stratford, estimated five per cent of her clientele was under the age of 18. She said most young teens would be coming in with their parents to get a base tan before going on vacation. The business required consent from a parent for guardian for anyone under 18.
The salon, like the other two the Gazette spoke with, is also Smart Tan certified and was already using time-controlled beds to reduce the risk of burning.
But Rose acknowledged not all tanning businesses in the province likely follow the same rules, and for that reason she views the new bill as a positive development for the industry as a whole.
“I think it’s going to clean up salons and make them follow proper protocols ... and give us the great name that we deserve,” she added.
At Endless Summer Tanning Spa in Mitchell, an under-18 ban has been in effect since new owner Nancy Brink took over operations this past June.
An aesthetician for over 25 years, Brink said she believes no one needs to tan before the age of 18. At the same time, she said a tanning bed is a controlled environment, and in that sense is safer than sitting out under the sun for hours.
Cindy Hanna, owner of Tanners Sun Salon in Stratford, while not worried about the legislation’s impact on her business, said she was frustrated by what she sees as unnecessary government intervention.
"The government's sticking their nose where they don't belong,” she said. “We already self govern. We have training.”
Her business enforced a tanning ban on youth under the age of 16, and Hanna added it should be up to parents to decide if their 16- or 17-year-old child can tan.
Hanna said the law goes too far by forcing owners to post signs warning of the health risks. She said she plans to counter this by posting articles about how tanning is good for your health.
She noted vitamin D from UV light plays a major role in preventing other types of cancer as well as asthma and heart disease. Vitamin D can also help people suffering from seasonal affective disorder, she added.
Like anything, Hanna said tanning in moderation is best to prevent overexposure and burning.
According to the Perth District Health Unit’s Karen Bergin-Payette, there is no such thing as a healthy tan. She said a person can receive all of the Vitamin D the body needs through five to 10 minutes of incidental exposure to the sun during the spring and summer. There are also many natural and fortified food sources available and over-the-counter supplements, she added.
She recommended alternatives like a spray tan, lotion, or regular makeup for anyone looking for a little extra colour, and advised against using tanning lotions without adequate UV protection.
Bergin-Payette said she was ecstatic to learn the government had passed the tanning bill, noting stiffer regulations were a long time coming.
“We are thrilled with this life-saving bill,” she added.
- With files from Michelle Maisonville