Legislation needed to ban teens from tanning

Times-Herald Editorial Staff
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Artificial tanning has the lure of golden skin without having to spend hours in the blazing sun. But as appealing as it may be, tanning puts teens in particular at an increased risk of developing skin cancers.

While Saskatchewan has a recommendation for people under the age of 18 not to use tanning beds, it isn’t deterring users. Saskatchewan should impose a legislative ban on teen artificial tanning to help keep youth skin healthier.

Health Canada’s official position is there is no safe way to tan. Artificial tanning equipment releases UV rays up to five times the strength of the sun at noon. Although a slight pigment darkening becomes visible, teens who tan can get wrinkles as early as in their 20s.

But the biggest issue with artificial tanning is the increased risk of developing skin cancers, particularly melanoma. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is most common in ages 15 to 29. In 2009, 5,000 Canadians were diagnosed with melanoma, 940 of whom died, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

According to the World Health Organization and the IARC, using artificial tanning before age 35 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma up to 75 per cent.

Tanning beds are classified as Group 1 carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). To put it into perspective, tanning beds are in the same classification as cigarettes.

So why is it legal for minors to tan? They are not allowed to smoke cigarettes. Saskatchewan’s recommendation and Health Canada’s guidelines just aren’t enough to prevent teens from artificial tanning. The number of salons has increased across Canada by five per cent in the past five years. Seeing celebrities with golden skin does nothing to discourage teens from wanting to have that image.

There are 104 tanning salons in Saskatchewan and studies have shown salons market their product to teenagers. Only Nova Scotia and Victoria’s capital region in British Columbia have a law that prohibits teen tanning in Canada.

Saskatchewan needs to take the next step in helping teens make the right choices. It is against the law for minors to smoke cigarettes. It is against the law for minors to consume alcohol. It should be against the law for minors to use artificial tanning beds when the risks are so high.

All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.

Organizations: Health Canada, IARC, Canadian Cancer Society World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Canada, Victoria British Columbia

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  • Doug McNabb
    June 08, 2012 - 10:10

    I am the President of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association. Having the government remove the right of parents to make decisions regarding their kids tanning is obviously a very controversial topic. The question, are parents able to guide their teens as to whether to tan or not versus, is this such a dangerous activity that the government should ban it from teenagers using it all together is a complicated one. Certainly, people are welcome to their opinions as to whether people look good with a tan or not but that is not the issue. Here are to examples: The CCS cites the World Health Organization’s listing tanning beds as a Group 1 carcinogen as the reason for banning teens from tanning beds. Many other things such as sunlight, red wine, saw dust, salted fish, and birth control pills/oral contraceptives are listed in the same category as sunbeds. Given the WHO considers them the same one of the things we asked in our letter to Mr. Goodhand was if the CCS planned to call for a ban on teens using oral contraceptives. Currently they can obtain them, even without parental consent. Secondly, dermatologists routinely treat psoriasis with tanning beds (UV emitting phototherapy). The World Health Organization data shows this type of equipment actually results in a risk 16x greater than commercial tanning beds used in tanning salons and is also listed as a Group 1 carcinogen. This equipment is curiously and specifically removed from all proposed legislation. The CCS will/has not ask for a ban on this type of exposure which is also listed as a Group 1 carcinogen. The Canadian Cancer Society has taken a very aggressive position and claims that science supports their position. In an attempt to better understand the CCS’s position and perhaps reach a consensus that may make the regulatory process more effective and less costly, the JCTA wrote 2 letters requesting a meeting with Peter Goodhand, CEO/President of the Canadian Cancer Society. Our first letter was ignored so a second letter was sent and the reply was a refusal to meet saying that the answer to the questions raised in our initial letter could be found on the CCS web site. That is not the true. For instance birth control pills, in the asme category as sunbeds can be given to teens even without parental knowledge It is hard to understand why the leader of an organization as powerful and influential as the CCS would refuse to meet and discuss these issues. I’ll leave it to the readers to decide why this may be? Here is a link to the letter http://tanawareness.com/refuses_meeting.php

  • Courtney waldenberg
    June 05, 2012 - 17:23

    Ypu should check out how Fabutan has a teen tan plan in place! It's the parent choice!! And should be!!