Children to expose illegal tanning

Sunbed operators who sell sunbed use to children are at greater risk of being exposed following the development of new guidelines permitting the use of minors to check who is breaking the law.

The Test Purchase Guidelines, issued today by Health Minister Leo Varadkar, will allow the HSE’s Environmental Health Services (EHS) to send children aged 15-17 into sunbed premises and attempt to purchase a sunbed session.

Having children pose as potential customers is not an attempt at entrapment, according to Mr Varadkar.

“I want to stress that the objective of the test purchase programme is to ascertain whether a sunbed business is complying with the law, not to trap that business into committing an offence,” said Mr Varadkar. “In this regard, the test purchaser [child] must answer all questions about their age truthfully.”

Mr Varadkar said the new guidelines would add a tool to the arsenal of the EHS in trying to weed out rogue sunbed operators. The test purchase guidelines apply to the sale, use or hire of sunbeds to persons under 18 years of age.

Similar test purchase programmes are currently in place for the sale of alcohol and tobacco.

Maurice Mulcahy, the regional chief environmental health officer of the HSE, said it was essential that individuals supervising the use of sunbeds verify the age of customers to ensure they are over the age limit of 18.

This could be done by checking age cards, passports, or driving licences, said Dr Mulcahy.

He said the new test would enable them “to verify if these essential checks are taking place and thereby ensuring the protection of children from the health risks associated with ultra violet radiation from sunbeds”.

Surveys undertaken by the Environmental Health Association of Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society have demonstrated that some 7% of the population use sunbeds with three percent using them as frequently as once a week.

International research shows that sunbeds can emit ultraviolet radiation up to five times as strong as the Australian midday sun and therefore their use can substantially increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Irish sunbed operators are obliged to notify the HSE National Sunbed Office that they are operating a sunbed business.

Dr Mulcahy reminded operators who have not already done so, to complete the notification process before the September 2 deadline. After this date, operators could incur fixed penalty notices which will require the payment of €300, and if there is still failure to notify, prosecution proceedings will follow.

The HSE Environmental Health Service has undertaken approximately 400 inspections since March this year. Approximately 146 sunbed businesses have fully completed the official notification process.

Enquiries or complaintsabout non-compliance can be sent to


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