‘Happy hour’ clamp down part of new sunbed rules

A total ban on sunbeds has been ruled out by Health Minister Leo Varadkar as he unveiled new restrictions on their use due to links with cancer.

‘Happy hour’ clamp down part of new sunbed rules

Mr Varadkar said action was needed to clamp down on “happy hour” and unlimited use offers being used by tanning centres to lure in customers.

The new rules, which will also ensure people must wear eye protection and be supervised when using sun beds, will be brought in next month.

Mr Varadkar said he would not ban sunbed use as it was a matter of personal choice despite the health risks, like smoking and drinking.

“We don’t want a nanny state. We want to give people choice, to make their own decisions and, in some cases, even to damage their own health.

“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,” Mr Varadkar said.

He warned that using sun beds without eye protection was also dangerous.

“More and more evidence is emerging that using a sunbed without protective eyewear can damage the eye and potentially cause cancers. These new measures will ensure that protective eyewear which meets safety standards is used,” Mr Varadkar said.

Sunbed use is already banned for people under the age of 18, and the new restrictions will be enforced by the HSE.

Skin cancer is the most common form of the disease in Ireland, with more than 10,000 cases in 2011.

Cancer rates in Ireland are expected to double over the next 25 years with the fastest growing number of cancers expected to be skin cancers.

Irish Cancer Society’s Kathleen O’Meara welcomed the changes.

“The new regulations highlight the dangers of sunbed use for everyone, whatever your age or skin type. Sunbed use is as carcinogenic as tobacco or plutonium.

“It is our hope that this legislation will mark a turning point in attitudes to using sun beds in Ireland. We would advise everyone not to use sun beds but it is vital that young people who are most at risk are protected,” Ms O’Meara said.

People under 30 are at particular risk when using sun beds, according to Liz Yeates of the Marie Keating Foundation.

“In light of the undeniable evidence that use of sun beds is a direct cause of skin cancer, we are very pleased to see the introduction of these new regulations.

“We know that younger people under the age of 30 who use sun beds are particularly at risk and have a 75% increased risk of developing malignant melanoma.

“For this reason, we are hopeful that these regulations, in particular the restriction on marketing practices of sun beds, will have a strong impact with this particular age group,” she said.

Regional chief environmental health officer Dr Maurice Mulcahy said: “Ireland now will have laws and guidance which will protect the public from the threats to their health and wellbeing, associated with artificial tanning devices.

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