Safety watchdog wants sunbed ban for kidsCall comes as Which? shows 8-year-olds use sunbeds

24 April 2008

Children

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has called for a ban on under-18s using sunbeds.

The HSE proposal follows Which? research that shows 170,000 under-16s, some as young as eight years old, are using sunbeds.

If under-18s are included, the figure rises to almost a third of a million young youngsters.

Risk

Young people have a 75% higher risk of fatal skin cancer if they use a sunbed, according to Cancer Research UK. The younger you are, the higher the risk.

The industry trade body, The Sunbed Association (TSA), currently instructs members to ban under-16s and fair-skinned adults with ‘type one’ skin that burns easily.

But Which? sent undercover researchers to ten salons, including one TSA member, and found that many staff failed to warn about the health risks.

All ten said someone with a very pale (type one) skin could use a sunbed, and only three salons gave a verbal warning about the risks. 

Two salons that failed to warn of health risks were in council-run leisure centres - the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has called for a ban on sunbeds in local authority centres.

Checklist

  • Caution

    The World Health Organisation recommends that under eighteens shouldn't use sunbeds. Those with type 1 skin (fair, lots of moles or red hair and burns easily in the sun) are also advised to avoid use

  • Keep clear

    You should avoid sunbeds if you are pregnant or have a family history of skin cancer. Using certain medications can also increase your sensitivity to UV light – ask your doctor or pharmacist if you’re not sure

  • Be careful

    If you have decided that you do want to use a sunbed, always wear goggles and avoid overexposure as this increases the risk of skin cancer and premature ageing of the skin

  • Safe tan

    Alternatively, get a tan without a sunbed by using fake tan

Regulation

At present there are no regulations to ensure that high-risk users don’t use sunbeds.

According to the Department of Health, there is a fear there are too many ‘dodgy’ backroom sunbed shops.

More than 100 deaths from skin cancer every year in the UK are thought to be linked to the use of sunbeds.

Proposals

As well as the under-18 ban, the HSE proposals call for salons to be staffed at all times – at present unstaffed coin-operated salons are common.

Shop owners will also find guidance that explains operators’ legal responsibilities, and common hazards, as well as how to assess risks and advice on operating UV tanning equipment safely, including provisions on staffing.

The review is the first element of the 2007 Cancer Reform Strategy aimed at preventing skin cancer.

Which? editor Neil Fowler said: 'Despite the dangers of sunbed use a shocking number of children told us that they've used one.

'We're pleased to see that the government is looking at this issue. And in the meantime if you can't live without a tan, consider faking it with a bottle rather than putting your health at risk.'