We Are Sunshine

Province To Ban Under-18 Tanning

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Canada’s third-most-populous province announced plans Tuesday to introduce indoor tanning regulations this fall, including prohibiting clients under age 18 from being able to use UV tanning services in salons.

British Columbia — with a population of around 4.5 million — will work with the tanning industry to develop professional standards for the market, BC Health Minister Mike de Jong announced in a press conference Tuesday. The Joint Canadian Tanning Association participated in a working group that presented recommendations to de Jong this winter, and de Jong has said he’ll work with the market to formalize standards that the JCTA has endorsed and lobbied for for several years.

But de Jong ultimately did not agree with JCTA about the under-18 ban.

“We believe the evidence warrants this step,” de Jong said at the press conference in Vancouver Tuesday. “We believe that every time we take action collectively and individually, it represents a benefit to families, to individuals and to society as a whole, which bears the brunt of the costs associated with treating those cancers.”

The Canadian Cancer Society and the BC Cancer Agency lobbied for the under-18 ban, referring to the 2009 World Health Organization report which the groups continue to allege reported that indoor tanning increases melanoma risk by 75 percent for those who begin tanning before age 35.

But that’s not what the report said.

In fact, the data in the report did not actually study indoor tanning salons, but rather sunbed usage. Half of the subjects making up WHO’s “75 percent” figure were home tanning bed users or used medical sunbeds in dermatology offices. It was the home sunbeds and the medical sunbeds — which BC will continue to allow dermatologists to use — that increased risk. The indoor tanning salons users did not have an increased risk in the WHO data set.

“JCTA and Smart Tan, as a JCTA member, pointed that out to the working group, but this decision about the ban again appears to be politically motivated,” Smart Tan Vice President Joseph Levy said. JCTA Director Steve Gilroy was a part of the BC working group.

“British Columbia, like California, is going to allow dermatologists to continue to use sunbeds even though dermatology phototherapy treats cosmetic diseases and has a significantly greater risk than WHO alleged tanning salons had. There’s no way to rationalize that other than politics trumped science again,” Levy said.

Statistics published by the BC Cancer Agency have not shown any increase in melanoma risk in young women since the mid-1980s — also contradicting claims made by those lobbying for the ban. In fact, melanoma is increasing in men over age 50 — the group least likely to use sunbeds — and is decreasing in incidence in British Columbia in women under age 50.

When the ban is enacted, British Columbia will join Nova Scotia as provinces prohibiting tanning for clients under age 18 (The Nova Scotia ban is for clients under age 19).