Simon Harris would ban sunbeds if he 'had his way' amid hopes EU will tackle sunscreen VAT

Simon Harris would ban sunbeds if he 'had his way' amid hopes EU will tackle sunscreen VAT

Sunbeds would be banned if Health Minister Simon Harris "had his way", he says, but he has been advised this is impossible.

Nevertheless, Mr Harris, who launched the first skin cancer prevention plan for Ireland, intends finding ways to further restrict sunbed use.

Under the plan, an implementation group will examine the feasibility of eliminating sunbed use.

Mr Harris said it is “bizarre” that three-quarters (76%) of people are aware that sunbeds cause cancer but 40% have used them.

“Sunbed use is a class-one carcinogenic. Sunbed use can cause cancers and there are no health benefits,” he said.

Mr Harris said they have made progress with the Public Health Sunbed Act 2014 that bans the use of sunbeds by children.

He said: “We are now going to review that legislation; to check its effectiveness and see if we can do more in this space."

The skin cancer prevention survey by the National Cancer Control programme found that almost one in 10 people (9%) do not take any measures to protect them from the sun. It also emerged that 50% have experienced sunburn in the past year.

Mr Harris said he wants to remove VAT from sunscreens but has been told by the Department of Finance that it is a complex issue and needs to be tackled at EU level.

The minister said he wants to make sure that people are not avoiding sunscreen because of the cost and hopes that Ireland's newly-elected MEPs will take a “leadership role” at EU level and seek to remove VAT from sunscreens.

Mr Harris said the plan will seek to reduce the barriers to people accessing sunscreen. According to the survey, sunscreen is the most commonly used sun protection measure.

More than 11,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year and the number of cases is expected to double by 2045.

Consultant in public health medicine from the NCCP, Dr Triona McCarthy, said that more than 1,000 people in Ireland are diagnosed with melanoma each year and more than 10,000 with non-melanoma skin cancer.

Dr McCarthy said while the number of skin cancer cases is predicted to increase, much can be done to reverse this trend.

He said: “This Skin Cancer Prevention Plan outlines the actions we can take to create an environment where protection of our skin from excess UV radiation is the norm."

Research conducted for the plan showed that often people believe it is a hot sun that causes skin cancer but, in fact, ultraviolet radiation UV is the main risk factor responsible for skin cancers.

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