TORONTO – Ontario teens are still getting the burn despite the province’s Skin Cancer Prevention Act, which prohibits the sale of tanning services or ultraviolet light treatments for tanning to adolescents, according to a report released today by the Ontario Sun Safety Working Group (OSSWG). The title of the report is First year of a ban on tanning beds and lamps among adolescents in Ontario, Canada (2017).
The report discovered that after the Act had gone into effect, there was no drop in the use of tanning beds or lamps amongst youth under 18 years old. In fact, the use of tanning beds and lamps by teens increased modestly (7.9% vs. 6.9% in the 12 months before the enactment of the Act). Of those teenage respondents who report using these tanning devices, 78% stated they began using them within one year after the Act came into effect. These adolescents said they are primarily using tanning beds and lamps in commercial establishments, which are covered by the legislation.
“The Skin Cancer Prevention Act was a critical step forward in protecting young people from the risks associated with tanning,” said Dr. Thomas Tenkate, a co-author of the report and the co-chair of the OSSWG. “Learning that there was no significant change in tanning bed or lamp use amongst youth points to the need for more to be done to protect Ontario teens.”
Other findings from the report include:
- There was a small increase (17% to 21%) in the percentage of tanning bed or lamp users who were refused tanning services at least once
- In the year that the Act came into effect, most (72%) of those who were denied service at least once did not use tanning beds or lamps
- There was an increase (from 57% to 71%) in the percentage of tanning bed/lamp users who noticed health warning signs
- Significantly more tanning bed/lamp users were required to use protective eyewear in the year after the Act came into effect (92% to 99%)
“The effectiveness of the legislation can be improved. We cannot rely on tanning services operators to routinely check for identification and refuse services to youth”, said Dr. Cheryl Rosen, from the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA), a co-author of the report and past chair of the OSSWG. “We need to work on changing beliefs that tanning makes one more attractive.”
The OSSWG recommends that the Government of Ontario enhances the enforcement of the legislation to ensure that tanning service providers are complying with the Act and that a public education program targeting teens and parents is developed to highlight the risks of tanning beds and lamps. Additionally, a comprehensive and long-term evaluation of the Act needs to be conducted to look at the incidence of tanning bed and lamp use and the enforcement of, and compliance with the Act.
“The report shows that in the rare instances where youth were refused tanning services, it significantly deterred youth from using tanning equipment” said John Atkinson, a co-author of the report and Director of Cancer Prevention, Canadian Cancer Society. “Although industry compliance and improved public education are essential, it’s also important that parents look at their sun behaviour since parental tanning habits are a strong predictor of youth tanning habits,” said Dr. Jennifer Beecker, National Chair of the CDA’s Sun Awareness Program.