Dec 8th 2011
JCTA Op-Ed Article in the Vancouver Sun Dec 12th
Regulate indoor tanning, but there’s no need for a ban By Steven Gilroy, Executive Director, Joint Canadian Tanning Association
In recent months there has been some debate about the need for greater regulations and controls on indoor sunbathing. The tanning industry supports this and has been asking for regulations for several years. That’s is why we’re more than happy to serve on the Government of BC’s Indoor Tanning Working Group.
Several municipalities in British Columbia have and are currently considering restricting access to indoor tanning facilities for those under the age of 18. We don’t believe such a measure is necessary. Before rash decisions are made limiting access to this perfectly controllable technology, it’s important to know the facts about both the tanning industry, and the supposed risks being associated with indoor sunbathing.
Since the early 1980s, thousands of Canadians have enjoyed the advantages of indoor sunbathing.The majority of those who use sunbeds do so to pre-tan in preparation for sunny vacations, or before the summer to reduce the risk of sunburn. Pre-tanning creates over 6 times the protection
The upside to using indoor tanning facilities to gain UV exposure is clear. UV light is vital to our health, and our body requires UV exposure to naturally produce vitamin D. In Canada, with our long dark winter, UVB exposure is difficult to come by for almost half the year.
The JCTA believes that indoor sunbathing - in a trained, professional tanning facility - is the smartest way to maximize the potential benefits of regular moderate UV exposure while minimizing the potential risks associated with over-exposure. Our customers are able to have access to UV exposure in a controlled environment, unlike when people are tanning on their deck or on a beach. .
For almost ten years, the Joint Canadian Tanning Association (JCTA), which represents 75% of the indoor sunbathing equipment in British Columbia, have operated under comprehensive self-imposed guidelines on the responsible use of tanning equipment.
These standards include skin typing to prevent those with the fairest skin type – known as Skin Type I (who can’t tan) – from sunbathing, requiring salons to include “remote timing” controls to ensure only a certified operator can set exposure times, and a minimal parental consent requirement for minors under the age of 18.
It’s important to note that the average age of an indoor sunbather is 30. Less than 10% of our customers are under the age of 18, and less than 2% are under the age of 16. The vast majority of those under the age of 16 that visit a tanning salon do so for therapeutic reasons, and have been referred for treatment by a physician.
The reality is, controlled sunbathing, whether the exposure is from the sun or an indoor UV source, is not an issue of age. It is an issue of what level of exposure is appropriate for what individual. Regulations should focus on ensuring that every tanning facility follows rules that will prevent people, regardless of age, from sunbathing in a way that could be risky for them.
According to Canadian Cancer Society statistics, there has been no relative increased in melanoma since indoor sunbathing became popular in the 1980s for women, which make of 85% of the clients at a salon. All scientific studies, including the much quoted World Health Organization’s IARC Report, demonstrates that those who are most at risk for melanoma are Skin Type I individuals – the very individuals who are already banned from our facilities.
Over the years, the JCTA has been working with provincial governments across Canada to formalize these regulations. We believe that governments can easily adopt the JCTA guidelines and certification programs, saving public dollars and resources while providing a responsible system which goes far beyond the simplistic and wrong-headed “age bans” that are currently being discussed.
In British Columbia, these efforts have resulted in the province setting up a working group that is currently looking at the best way to regulate this industry. We look forward to working with the province and other stakeholders to ensure there are regulations that include parental involvement, skin typing, a graduated exposure schedule, and that operators are properly trained and certified.