Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government announced radical laws that ban commercial tanning beds in the state. NSW will be the only place in the world besides Brazil to institute a total ban on ultraviolet solariums tanning units when the laws come into place from December 31, 2014, and cancer groups hope other states and countries will follow.
The Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, chose World Cancer Day to make her announcement, saying sun beds were carcinogenic and the International Agency for Research on Cancer had placed them in the same category of risk as asbestos. “Sadly, Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world and this ban is long overdue,’” she said.
The ban is likely to save lives but could put some NSW solariums – which pay about $30,000 for new tanning beds – out of business. There are about 100 businesses with 254 commercial tanning units registered in NSW, and about 10 per cent offer UV tanning exclusively. That group would be offered help through the Department of Trade and Investment’s business advisory services, Ms Parker said.
A professor of public health at the University of Sydney, Simon Chapman, said, “Solaria are cancer incubators and we have known that for a good while”. He said Mr Allen’s campaign was one of the best examples of consumer advocacy he had seen. The chief executive of the Cancer Council Australia, Ian Olver, said he hoped other states would follow. “It starts with one state that is brave enough to do it and it usually flows on,” he said. He said governments paid for cancers caused by sun beds so they had a right to ban them. A study by the University of Sydney estimated the ban would prevent about 120 melanomas from developing and save about 10 lives every year.
The Cancer Council has been lobbying for solariums to be banned for years, arguing that anyone who first used a tanning bed before they turned 35 has doubled their risk of developing melanoma.
Greens MP John Kaye has welcomed the ban but says it should be immediate. “Waiting around for waiting around for three years means about 43 people we estimate will die needlessly,” he said. Opposition environment spokesman Luke Foley said the tanning salon business had been booming over the last few months. “Sun beds have been doing a roaring trade this grey, wet summer,” Mr Foley said in a statement. “It’s time for the O’Farrell government to build on the achievements of the former Labor government and introduce an immediate and total ban.” Ms Parker says the 2014 deadline was chosen to give tanning businesses a chance to diversify.
Cancer Council chief executive Dr Andrew Penman says despite the delay, the ban will still be effective. “I think the effect of today’s announcement will be to send out a very strong message to the industry,” he said. “I suspect the industry will start dismantling its capacity ahead of 2014 and I’m sure that people who potentially are users of these centers will really prick up their ears and understand the seriousness of the exposure they’ve subjected themselves to.”