Councils who put sunbeds in their leisure centres are like hospitals offering cigarettes to patients, an environmental health group complained today.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) says that more than half of 92 English, Welsh and Northern Irish local authorities it surveyed have UV tanning equipment at premises owned by them.
At the same time, its survey found that 60 per cent of local councils didn’t have a skin cancer prevention policy in place.
The CIEH, which represents more than 10,000 environmental health workers, wants sunbeds banned from all council-run sports and leisure centres. It is also calling for local authorities to be given powers to license privately-run sunbed parlours.
CIEH Policy Officer Jenny Morris said: ‘For a local authority to provide sunbeds is akin to a hospital providing cigarettes and not having a prevention policy pays scant regard to our duty to protect and improve public health.’
The Sunbed Association (TSA), which represents sunbed operators, manufacturers and distributors in the UK, said there was no known and proven link between responsible sunbed use and skin cancer.
TSA chief executive Kathy Banks said the group’s members already adhered to a code of practice which stops under-16s using sunbeds, ensures salon staff are properly trained and protects adults from over-exposure at tanning salons.
She added: ‘Whilst there may be a case to introduce standards to ensure that all tanning outlets are operating to good practice, the effect this may have on reducing the incidence of skin cancer is likely to be minimal.’
A Health Which? investigation in 2004 uncovered a ‘potentially deadly mixture’ of dangerous practice and shockingly bad skin care advice at some sunbed establishments.
Researchers were wrongly advised it was safe for a person with red hair and fair or freckly skin to use a sunbed, and that there was no maximum number of safe sessions per year.
The 2004 investigation looked at 42 tanning outlets around the UK, including specialist sunbed shops, beauty salons, private health clubs and local-authority leisure centres.
Of the seven local authority centres that were visited by undercover researchers, six were guilty of providing an inadequate service.