‘Happy hour’ use of sunbeds banned

The Health Minister Leo Varadkar has announced a ban on so-called "happy hours" for sunbed use.

‘Happy hour’ use of sunbeds banned

The Health Minister Leo Varadkar has announced a ban on so-called "happy hours" for sunbed use.

Stricter rules on sunbed use are to be enforced from next month on the back of last year’s ban on under-18s using the tanning machines.

With 150 people dying each year from skin cancer, a tougher regime is being brought in outlawing so-called happy hours or free use of the beds and lamps from March 2.

On top of that, users will also have to wear protective eyewear or glasses and won’t be able to use the machines unless they are being supervised in order to minimise damage to their skin and eyes.

The aim of the increased restrictions is to combat the rising levels of skin cancer in Ireland – with more than 850 new cases of melanoma being reported each year – and to dissuade people under 30 from using the quick, artificial tan.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: “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. So this phase of sunbed measures is all about making sure that adults know the risks.

“More and more evidence is emerging that using a sunbed without protective eyewear can damage the eye and potentially cause cancers.”

The new regulations will require sunbed businesses to display warning signs, provide information on the risks and ban health claims – while new hygiene standards will be also be introduced.

According to figures produced by the National Cancer Registry, there were more than 10,000 cases of skin cancer in 2011 – and the same year there were over 7,000 people living with melanoma.

Inspectors from the Health Service Executive (HSE) environmental health division will be tasked with enforcing the increased restrictions on sunbed use and penalties will be imposed on businesses flouting the rules.

Kathleen O’Meara, head of advocacy and communications at the Irish Cancer Society, claimed sunbed use is as carcinogenic as tobacco or plutonium.

“The new regulations highlight the dangers of sunbed use for everyone, whatever your age or skin type,” she said.

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

Outlining the new regime, health chiefs revealed skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland and they warned it is a particular problem because of fair skin.

They noted the 2009 reclassification of sunbed use by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer from a group 2A carcinogen – one that is probably carcinogenic to humans – to a group 1 carcinogen – one that is carcinogenic to humans.

The health chiefs warned that ultraviolet radiation will cause cancer.

Liz Yeates, director of public affairs at the Marie Keating Foundation, said: “We know that younger people under the age of 30 who use sunbeds 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 sunbeds, will have a strong impact with this particular age group.”

Dr Maurice Mulcahy, regional chief environmental health officer, said: “With the introduction of these new provisions, 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 by making adults more aware of the risks associated with sunbed use and prohibiting the sale, hire or use of a sunbed by those under 18 years of age.

“We will shortly be writing to all sunbed businesses and will also be actively engaging locally with them over coming weeks, to advise and explain how they can comply with these new legal requirements.”

Companies offering sunbed use will also be required to notify the HSE of their operations and a list of notified tanning shops will be drawn up.

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