Press Release

New Sunbed Laws take effect from Monday to protect against cancer

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has confirmed that further Public Health Sunbeds restrictions come into effect from Monday March 2nd in an effort to protect people from the risk of cancer. “This is an important second step in regulating sunbed use. The more that someone uses a sunbed, the higher the risk they will get skin cancer.

The incidence of skin cancer is increasing faster than any other type. More than 850 new cases of melanoma are reported in Ireland each year, with 150 Irish people dying annually. So this phase of sunbed measures is all about making sure that adults know the risks,” Minister Varadkar said. “The new laws require sunbed use to be supervised, and anyone supervising the use of sunbed must be 18 years of age or over. Both the premises and the sunbeds must be kept in a clean and hygienic manner. Offers and promotions such as free of charge use, half price sessions, happy hours or early bird offers will be banned. “Customers will also be required to use protective eyewear which meets the required safety standards. More and more evidence is emerging that using a sunbed without protective eyewear can damage the eye and potentially cause cancers.” The first phase of restrictions came into effect last July with prohibitions on anyone 18 from using, hiring or buying a sunbed. The second phase of measures coming into effect from March 2nd will notify customers of the potential adverse health effects of using a sunbed.

Health Information must be provided to anyone intending to use, hire or buy a sunbed, warning signs must be displayed on sunbed premises and claims about the alleged benefits of sunbed use on health will be banned. Sunbed businesses are now required to notify the HSE, which will set up a list of notified sunbed businesses. The new provisions will be enforced by HSE Environmental Health Officers.  Penalties will apply for failure to comply with the legislation. “I want to thank the HSE, the Environmental Health Association of Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society and Marie Keating Foundation and others for their support for these new measures. This sort of co-operation is exactly what the Healthy Ireland initiative sets out to achieve,” Minister Varadkar said.


Further information

Last year a prohibition on sunbed use by under-18s came into effect. The Minister for Health has now signed 6 Statutory Instruments (including a commencement order) which come into force today (2 March 2015). Click here for more information.

Evidence base

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland and is a particular problem for Irish people because of their fair skin. For most, the main source of exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the sun. However, many people are exposed to high doses of ultraviolet radiation through artificial sources. Sunbeds and sunlamps used for tanning purposes are the main source of deliberate exposure to artificial ultraviolet radiation. All forms of such radiation contribute to skin cancer. There has been a growing body of evidence over recent years that the use of sunbeds, especially by children, should be restricted because of the associated increased risk of skin cancer and other health problems. In 2009, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified sunbed use from a group 2A carcinogen – one that is probably carcinogenic to humans – to a group 1 carcinogen – one that is carcinogenic to humans. This means that ultraviolet radiation is a group 1 carcinogen which is carcinogenic to humans and which will cause cancer.

  • According to figures produced by the National Cancer Registry there were over 10,000 cases of skin cancer in 2011.
  • There are over 850 new cases of melanoma in Ireland each year.
  • Over 150 Irish people die each year from melanoma.
  • There were over 7,000 people alive with this type of cancer in 2011.
  • Data from the HSE indicates that the cost of treating skin cancer ranges from €6,000 to €10,000 per patient depending on the complexity of the disease. Recently new high oncology drugs such as Ipilimumab and Vemurafenib (an oral BRAF inhibitor) have become available for patients with progressive melanoma. The cost of these treatments can range from €50,000 to €100,000 per patient. There are around 60-80 patients per year with such advanced melanomas.
  • The incidence of cancer in Ireland is expected to double by 2040 and the fastest growing number of cancers are expected to be skin cancers.

Sunsmart Code

The Irish Cancer Society’s Sunsmart code provides useful advice for when the UV Index is at 3 or higher. The steps involved in the Code are:

  • Seek shade – especially from 11am to 3pm
  • Cover up – with clothes and a hat
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses – make sure they give UV protection
  • Wear sunscreen:
  • adults SPF 15 or higher and UVA protection
  • children SPF 30 or higher and UVA protection

Further information