Press Release

Sunbeds ban for under 18’s to take effect in July

An important step to tackle Ireland’s growing skin cancer rates – Minister Reilly

Sunbeds ban for under 18’s to take effect in July

Sunbeds: Fashion to Die for – Pictured with Minister Reilly are Rebecca Carragher and Oisin O’Driscoll

A ban on the use of sunbeds by people under 18 years of age will take effect next month with the signing into law of the Public Health (Sunbeds) Act 2014. The Minister for Health Dr James Reilly has today appealed to Irish people, especially young people to take serious account of the dangers to their health by over exposure to sunlight or tanning radiation. Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in Ireland at the moment with over 10,000 new cases annually.

Irish people are literally risking their lives by disregarding the dangers involved and it is often the case that mere peer pressure is ultimately contributing to serious illness or even death.

The new law, which Dr James Reilly is highlighting today, will ban the use of sunbeds – in a sunbed premises – by persons under 18 years of age. It will be against the law to sell or hire a sunbed to anyone under 18 and the new law forces sunbed operators to make clear all the dangers of sunbed use.

The Minister made his announcement at Government Buildings accompanied by representatives from the Irish Cancer Society, the Marie Keating Foundation, the Environmental Health Association of Ireland, the National Cancer Control Programme and the HSE. The Minister was also accompanied by a teenage couple in debs attire. There is growing evidence that teenagers and young adults are using sunbeds before landmark events such as communions and debs dances.

“What young people must realise is that they are putting their health at serious risk by using sunbeds “said the Minister. “I would ask all sunbed users to consider the pain and scarring and even possible death that can result from skin cancer and to ask themselves ‘is it worth it’? Is having a ‘healthy’ tan really worth risking my life?”

Minister Reilly stated that the Act represents a major public health initiative and a robust tool which will help protect children from the dangerous effects of Ultraviolet Radiation. The provisions prohibiting the use of sunbeds on a sunbed premises by those under 18 years of age and the sale or hire of sunbeds to under 18s will come into effect before the end of July and will be enforced by the Environmental Health Officers of the HSE. Other provisions in the Act will ensure that adults have appropriate information to be able to make informed choices about sunbed use.

“On many occasions I have emphasised the need for preventive measures in the public health area and the need to protect our children, whether from the dangers of sunbeds or tobacco”, said the Minister. “This Act forms part of our overall public health strategy and measures aimed at addressing the main causes of cancers. As you will be aware, last week I presented the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 to the Seanad. This Bill will be another weapon in our armoury which will protect children by reducing the tobacco industry’s ability to lure them into starting to smoke.”

The Minister again called for people to take preventive steps to protect their own health. He referred to the alarming trends in relation to skin cancers. “The reality is that skin cancer is almost entirely preventable”, said the Minister. “A sensible approach to protecting ourselves from UV radiation is all that is needed. People can enjoy the sun but it is essential that they take sensible precautions. In particular, parents must take steps to ensure that children are protected from UV rays and that they never ever use sunbeds”.

The Minister thanked the organisations in attendance, both for their work on the Sunbeds Act and also for their ongoing efforts to raise awareness about skin cancer.

Ends

Note for Editors

The Public Health (Sunbeds) Act, 2014

The Public Health (Sunbeds) Act 2014 was signed into law by President Higgins.

The Act makes it an offence to:-

  • sell or hire a sunbed to any person under 18 years of age;
  • allow a person under 18 years of age use a sunbed on a sunbed premises;
  • sell the use of a sunbed on a sunbed premises to a person under 18 years of age ;
  • allow a person under 18 years of age to be in a restricted area unless in the course of their employment.

The Act makes provision for a number of other measures including

  • requiring information on the risks and dangers of sunbed use to be made available to potential clients in written form prior to using a sunbed;
  • a ban on certain promotional practices (e.g. early bird or “two for the price of one” offers); and
  • prohibiting sunbed operators from making health claims for sunbed use unless such claims are approved by the Minister.

The provisions of the Act will be enforced by the Environmental Health Officers of the HSE’s Environmental Health Service. These officers are currently responsible for enforcement of environmental health legislation including food safety and tobacco control.

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.

Statistics

  • 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.