Committee calls for increased regulation of tanning salon industry

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Welsh Assembly government should ensure tanning salons are put under greater scrutiny, a report advises.

A three-month inquiry by the National Assembly for Wales' Health Wellbeing and Local Government Committee concluded that self regulation of the tanning salon industry has been ineffective and that stricter guidelines need to be introduced to ensure users are adequately protected.

According to the committee, the Welsh Assembly government should introduce a new law which would ban under-18s from using sunbeds outright and recommend restricted access for those deemed at high risk.

The need for prompt action is underlined by evidence to support a link between sunbed use and skin cancer, the committee said.

Children and young people were highlighted as a particular group that needs to be protected from the dangers of sunbeds and unsupervised, coin-operated tanning salons were singled out as a particular problem.

"Despite the fact that evidence suggests sunbeds can cause skin cancer, tanning salons seem to have escaped effective regulation," committee chair Darren Millar explained.

"Self regulation within the industry, whilst welcome, has failed to prevent some of the horror stories we have seen here in Wales where children as young as ten have suffered serious burns using these unsupervised salons.

"Young people must be protected from the risks of unsupervised salons in the future."

Tanning salons would be required to implement a number of proposals aimed at improving safety.

These include ensuring facilities are supervised at all times, providing information about the health risks of sunbeds and obtaining written consent from clients before use.

Sunbeds would also have to comply with British and European irradiance standards.

With 505 cases of skin cancer diagnosed in Wales in 2006, the committee also recommended increased funding for the SunSmart campaign, which warns of the dangers of ultraviolet radiation from both the sun and sunbeds.

The committee's recommendations have been "strongly welcomed" by Cancer Research UK.

"Rates of malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, are rising faster than any other cancer in the UK and causing more than 100 deaths a year in Wales," the organisation's head of policy Sarah Woolnough said.

"There is clear evidence that using a sunbed increases the risk of skin cancer and experts believe that, along with excessive sun exposure, sunbed use has contributed to the rise in rates of skin cancer.

"We know that children have often gained easy access to sunbed salons in Wales; we believe there is an urgent need for tougher regulation of the industry and support the government introducing legislation as soon as possible."