14jan sunbeds hero default

Opinion: About time sunbeds went R18

When you’re a teenager you don’t give much thought to anything you do becoming something you’ll regret later in life.

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And so it was in my senior high school years. When ball season would roll around, buying our concession card for 10 sunbed sessions was pretty much a given. After all, you were spending the money on the dress of your dreams, hair, makeup, shoes and tickets so you weren’t exactly going to ruin all that by showing up looking “pasty”.

There was some talk at the time about the UV light from sunbeds causing skin cancer, but the other talk about the benefits of vitamin D took care of that. Spending time on the sunbed, in my head anyway, was something healthy to do – a view backed up by the fact the sunbed I used was at a gym. Plus it was an adult handing over the goggles and taking my money, so how bad could it be?

If I’d known then what I now know about sunbeds, would I still have lain in that capsule of UV light for 20 minutes? Yeah, I probably would have. Because when you’re young, a 30-year-old you is too hard to imagine let alone a 50-year-old you.

So news that the Health (Protection) Amendment Bill is now before Parliament is great news in my books as well as those of Consumer NZ. The bill, if passed, will make sunbeds R18.

It’s time those most vulnerable are protected from themselves, and that operators who let them use a sunbed can be prosecuted for making money out of their naivety.

Consumer‘s long-held view is that sunbed operators need to be regulated and compliance with the sunbed standard should be mandatory. It’s a view backed up each year when our mystery shopper surveys are carried out.

Last year’s survey showed plenty of operators didn’t have their act together when it came to meeting the voluntary guidelines in place. Of the 60 operators visited, only 33 provided the required consent form and 41 carried out a skin assessment. Just 33 percent were doing everything they should under the sunbed standard.

Yesterday’s introduction of the Bill shows New Zealand is finally catching up with those parts of the world that recognise the younger you start using a sunbed the more you’re at risk of skin cancer. Ten European countries and several states in Canada and the US have laws that ban under-18s from sunbed use.

Interestingly, from the end of 2014, Western Australia will be the only Australian state not to have a complete ban on commercial sunbeds.

The high standards in Australia show a tough approach is possible and how far New Zealand has to go. Consumer will continue to advocate for tougher regulation of the industry but in the meantime we congratulate the Government on taking this step.

By Kate Newton.