The Canadian Cancer Society wants the province to prohibit youth under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning equipment. PHOTO SUBMITTED/THE PETROLIA TOPIC/QMI AGENCY
Lexi McShea has been using indoor tanning beds since she was 15.
“After you tan you always feel good,” said the Grade 11 Northern student, who visits a tanning salon two to three times a month.
So it's not surprising the 17-year-old Sarnia teen is against legislation recently tabled by Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews that would ban anyone under 18 from indoor tanning.
“I think that they don't really have a say in what teenagers want to do,” said McShea. “As long as we know what could happen to us and the rules about it then I don't see why the government has to get involved in it.”
The proposed legislation would also ban the industry from targetting youth in advertising and require operators to ID anyone who appears under 25.
For Moe Deol, owner of Kokomo's Sun Tanning and Swimwear, such changes wouldn't mean much to his bottom line.
About 8% of Kokomo's customers are under 18, he said.
“We're just going to see a lot of the kids coming in and getting spray tans, which is a substantial part of the business now,” he said.
But he'd rather see self-regulation continue.
“The industry has been self regulated (and) it's been running fine, other than the odd salon that maybe hasn't been following procedure,” he said.
The World Health Organization categorizes tanning beds the same as asbestos and tobacco in terms of cancer risk. Five provinces — Quebec, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland — already have bans; Manitoba requires parental consent.
Similar municipal bans were introduced in Mississauga, Oakville and Peel Region last year.
“We know that early exposure to ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds puts our youth at an increased risk of melanomas, which are the deadliest form of skin cancer,” said Matthews in a news release.
“By working together to ban tanning for minors, we are protecting the health of our young people and helping to prevent skin cancer."
The government should instead be focussing on regulating how the tanning industry works, said Steve Gilroy, executive director with the Joint Canadian Tanning Association.
A significant portion of tanning equipment in Canada is 'self serve', he said.
“We believe that it needs to be controlled by somebody that knows how to use the equipment,” he said, noting the industry wants to work with the province to create professional standards.
“So that everybody tans responsibly and does it in moderation,” he said.
But for Helen Cole, manager of the Lambton County branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, no tan is a safe tan.
“We're seeing increasing rates of melanoma in almost every country,” she said. “It's time that we put a stop to this.”
She stopped short of saying the proposed legislation doesn't go far enough, but said the society prefers people not tan.
“The bottom line is we are elated to see this legislation back on the table,” she said.
The most recent data from the Canadian Cancer Society lists 115 new cases of melanoma in the region that includes Lambton, Essex and Kent counties in 2007.