Last week, Greater Victoria became the first region in Canada to ban minors from using commercial tanning beds. Salon operators in the Capital Regional District could soon face fines of $250- $2,000 for tanning teens under 18 – something the Vancouver Island Health Authority says it’s prepared to enforce.
“What we’ll be looking at is a complaint-driven (enforcement) process,” said VIHA chief medical health officer Dr. Richard Stanwick, who proposed the restriction seven months ago, following recommendations from the World Health Organization.
WHO does not support the use of tanning beds for people under the age of 18, attributing UV radiation to the development of skin cancer, cataracts, and other eye conditions, as well as the suppression of the immune system. Indoor tanning beds generate about five times the amount of UVA radiation produced by the sun and are not a safe means of producing vitamin D, Heath Canada also warns. Before the CRD passed the bylaw by a margin of 18-1, Anne Thomas, VIHA’s regional manager for health protection, said methods used to regulate cigarette sales could be applied to tanning. “We have these mystery tobacco shoppers and these same individuals could be used, if required, to do the same for the tanning industry,” Stanwick confirmed.
Fines will only be levied after salons have had a chance to be educated about the new bylaw.
At the Jan. 12 meeting, tanning salon operators spoke against the bylaw, saying a ban is the wrong way to ensure safety.
“People keep asking us why we care so much, because youth make up such a small percentage of our business,” said Angie Woodhead, co-owner of Cabana Tan in Victoria. “Well, we care because we want to make this as safe as possible for all of our customers.”
Woodhead voluntarily follows guidelines similar to those put in place in Manitoba last May. In that province, parental consent is required for underaged clients. Like many in the industry, Woodhead would like to see a mandate to ensure all bed operators are trained and that every business purchase professional liability insurance.
Stanwick agrees additional regulations need consideration. But he says it’s now up to the province to follow up on the momentum generated by the CRD decision.
Regardless of how long it takes for rules to change at a wider level, members of Youth Against Cancer who attended the meeting said the winds of change are blowing.
“When we came to the meeting, our message was to create a generational change,” said club co-founder Adele Green.
Teens in the region are still free to tan until the bylaw becomes official following a substantial education period.