Group calls for laws on tanning beds

Aethne Hinchliffe
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Seventeen-year-old Andrea Gale from the Codroy Valley began using a tanning bed beginning a couple of months before her graduation. She was wearing a white dress and didn’t want her skin to be pale.

Shirley Carter, the owner of Total Image in Port aux Basques, supports the idea that young people shouldn’t be using tanning beds.

Andrea said she would probably tan again sometime in the winter.

“It’s nice,” she said. “I can pretend I’m lying on the beach but actually be in the tanner.”

If the Canadian Dermatology Association has its way, people Andrea’s age will not be legally allowed to use tanning beds. The association is meeting with Minister of Health Jerome Kennedy Aug. 5 in St. John’s to lobby in favour of tanning-bed legislation.

“Essentially, we’re trying to have legislation passed in Newfoundland and Labrador to have the use of tanning beds banned for those under the age of 19,” said Ian Landells, a dermatologist in St. John’s and the former president of the Canadian Dermatology Association.

Peter Green, a dermatologist who lobbied for similar legislation in Nova Scotia, will accompany Dr. Landells.

The legislation was passed in Nova Scotia in late May, said Dr. Landells. It took about a year for it to go through.

The Canadian Dermatology Association approached the former minister of health in Newfoundland and Labrador about four years ago, but the case was unsuccessful. According to Dr. Landells, a lot has happened since then.

“The World Health Organization has rated indoor tanning and ultraviolet radiation from sun as well as indoor tanning beds as a category one carcinogen, which is the same level of carcinogenicity as tobacco and asbestos,” he said.

Dr. Landells said he describes tanning beds as the cigarettes of today. People are knowingly exposing themselves to the carcinogen.

“People are almost addicted to going, despite the fact that they know it causes cancer,” he said. “It’s been shown that going to tanning beds increases your risk of Melanoma 75 per cent. If you go twice a week for a year, your risk of skin cancer has increased 100 times.”

Shirley Carter, the owner of Total Image in Port aux Basques, said she supports the idea of keeping young people from using tanning beds.

She said people under the age of 16 who want to use the tanning bed at her store must get something signed.

“It’s mostly graduates that we get,” she said, referring to the younger people who use the tanning bed.

They normally come in April or May before they graduate, said Mrs. Carter. Besides that, the store doesn’t see a lot of young people.

Not only do people under the age of 16 have to get something signed, but also every new tanner has to answer questions and sign a waiver.

The waiver includes 13 questions about people’s tanning and burning histories as well as skin types.

Following the questions, customers must sign a waiver that says: “I have been instructed on the proper use of the tanning table. I have been advised of the cautions necessary for safe tanning and I agree that I am using these services at my own risk ...”

Based on certain answers, a customer would be advised not to use the tanning bed. Some medications also keep people from being able to use tanning beds, said Mrs. Carter.

Mrs. Carter said few clients who use the tanning bed at her store are younger than 19, and she’s not aware of any clients who are under 16.

The Canadian Dermatology Association would like legislation banning minors from using tanning beds across the country.

Dr. Landells also said minors tend to use tanning beds when their graduations are approaching.

“Most kids turn 18 in their final year of high school or shortly after, so it (the legislation) would prevent all of those kids from getting all that damage to their skin,” he said.

Many people go to tanning beds to look better, said Dr. Landells, but in fact what tanning does is help to age the skin much more quickly.

Dr. Landells said if people want colour, spray on tans are fine. Alternatively there are lotions that, if applied properly, look natural.

Many people talk about having to get vitamin D.

“What’s been shown more and more is if you live in Canada, you’re going to have low vitamin D from the winter,” said Dr. Landells.

It’s not possible to stock pile vitamin D levels, so people exposing themselves to the sun in the summer won’t raise their vitamin D levels for the winter, he said.

“Tanning beds produce mainly UVA light,” he said. “UVB light is the one that burns, so they took that out so you wouldn’t burn, you’d just tan.”

Vitamin D is mainly produced by UVB light, said Dr. Landells. Tanning beds, therefore, don’t provide much vitamin D.

Organizations: Canadian Dermatology Association, World Health Organization

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Port aux Basques Canada

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  • Steven Gilroy
    August 03, 2011 - 12:00

    The Joint Canadian Tanning Association and it’s members are very interested in working with the Newfoundland and Labrador Government for a comprehensive set of regulations for the commercial indoor sunbathing community for the protect all ages. The CDA has been misrepresenting the WHO IARC data that generalizing indoor tanning. Commercial tanning units only show a 6% risk when you include a Skin Type 1 person (professional salons don’t UV tan a skin type 1 person) This research we presented in June of this year in Montreal. We hope the Newfoundland and Labrador Government will be different than Nova Scotia and setup working group meetings, which will involve all stakeholders including representative from tanning industry. It’s interesting how Dr. Landells is confused over what types of rays are coming from tanning equipment. Over 90% of equipment today has UVB rays that will produce vitamin d. The foremost vitamin D researchers in Canada and USA disagree with Dr Landells statement , they say tanning equipment is a controlled source of vitamin d. Research out of Edmonton showed that indoor sunbather had one of the highest levels of vitamin D. Is the CDA ready to sit down with the JCTA and government to create a comprehensive set of regulation for all ages? We are. Steven Gilroy Executive Director for the JCTA