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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

WELCOMED: Proposals to Close Sunbed Regulation Loop-hole

Today the National Assembly’s Health Committee publishes its report looking into the use and [serious lack of] regulation of the sunbed industry in Wales.

A clear message to discourage the use of sunbeds was sent out earlier this year following the success of our campaign to get local authorities in Wales to remove the sunbeds they operated in their local leisure centres.

Now the Welsh Assembly has the opportunity to develop on that, to steal a march and introduce adequate measures to regulate the commercial tanning industry and thereby protect public health in Wales.

The Health Committees report makes for very interesting reading, and while I would pick the Committee up on a few, very small, points in the document (as you would expect, you might say), BMA Cymru are absolutely delighted with its conclusions.

The report shows that the Committee has listened to the evidence it received – not just from us and the wider healthcare profession - but from a whole host of organisations and even from parents.

In line with our recommendations the Committee is asking the Welsh Government to “seek the legislative competence to introduce new laws to enable local authorities in Wales to regulate, license and, if necessary, impose liabilities and create offences in relation to sunbed facilities and their operators.”

Again, in line with our recommendations, (link) the Committee says that these new laws should be based around recommendations 1 and 2 of the thirteenth COMARE report on ‘The health effects and risks arising from exposure to ultraviolet radiation from tanning devices”.

As a minimum, the law should ensure that:
• use by under 18s is prohibited;
• use by other high risk groups is discouraged;
• facilities provide full-time supervision by well-trained staff;
• use of protective eyewear is compulsory;
• information setting out the potential health risks of using sunbeds is prominently displayed and provided to all users;
• information containing unproven health benefits of sunbed use should be prohibited from premises;
• written informed consent is obtained from all clients prior to use; and that
• facilities should not be allowed to use sunbeds that do not comply with both the British and European Standards on sunbed irradiance levels.

We will be urging the Health Minister and the Assembly Government to adopt and bring forward these proposals as soon as possible.

For us the essential point is that there is no such thing as a safe tan (unless it comes out of a bottle). The damage to your skin remains long after a tan has faded.

There is one area of regulation of the sunbed industry which we would like to see Wales go further on – that is advertising.

Although the report suggests that investment in the SunSmart campaign is needed on a UK level - bill-boards, posters and leaflets advertising commercial outlets continue to line most high streets in Wales. Although I’m not aware of any detailed study to date, I think it’s fair to say that these tend to be targeted towards our more deprived communities – and towards young people.

In our view a move to place tighter regulation on the commercial sunbed industry - including inspection and licensing, a restriction for under 18s and a ban on unsupervised salons - would be significantly more robust and complete, if it included some level of control on advertising and marketing.

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