A Consumer NZ mystery shop of sunbed operators has again highlighted poor practices in the industry. Two operators let an underage shopper have a sunbed session, while 6 let a person with fair skin that burns easily use a sunbed.
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Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the operators’ behaviour was a significant concern. “Using a sunbed is a health risk regardless of age or skin type but people under 18 or with fair skin are at greater risk of suffering lasting and serious damage,” Ms Chetwin said.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer states using a tanning device before age 30 increases the risk of melanoma by 75%.
Consumer NZ’s mystery shoppers also visited 40 operators to check compliance with key safety guidelines in the voluntary sunbed standard. “We found little improvement in overall compliance since our 2015 survey. Forty-five percent of operators failed to implement basic checks,” she said.
Under the voluntary standard, people using a sunbed should be given a consent form to sign to ensure they’re over 18, informed of the risks of sunbed use and made aware of the importance of wearing protective goggles. Thirteen operators didn’t provide shoppers with a consent form.
Eight operators didn’t do a formal skin assessment, which is important because certain skin types are more susceptible to UV damage. Eye protection is also essential because UV rays can damage your eyes and increase your risk of getting cataracts. Two Christchurch operators didn’t provide any eye protection at all.
“We’ve been mystery shopping sunbeds for more than a decade and the results have been consistently disappointing. Operators ignore or don’t understand the requirements, and this isn’t adequately protecting consumers. With New Zealand’s high rate of skin cancer, it’s time sunbeds were banned,” Ms Chetwin said. Sunbeds are already banned in most Australian states and Brazil.
For more information, see the full sunbed mystery shop results.
Mystery shoppers visited 58 sunbed operators. The operators included solariums (specialist sunbed establishments), fitness centres, hairdressers, beauty therapists and nail salons. Shoppers booked a session, told the operator it was their first sunbed and carried out the assessment in the privacy of the tanning cubicle. They did not use the sunbed.