Sunbed regulations 'absolutely useless' to protect public

GUIDANCE covering the regulation of sunbed parlours was yesterday branded "absolutely useless" by MSPs.

They claimed the public has no protection after hearing that operators can modify sunbeds to go over accepted safety levels – without committing an offence.

Holyrood's health committee was considering the issue as part of the Public Health Bill going through the Scottish Parliament.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Labour's Richard Simpson said research indicated that four out of five sunbed parlours fall short of safety guidelines and that their UV (ultra violet) levels exceed the maximum British standard.

He asked how environmental health officers were protecting users from tanning parlours that exceed the British national standard.

Alastair Shaw, of the Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland, said the issue was "problematic" and that action could not be taken until a user suffered an injury, for example from burns. He said that sunbeds could be modified with more powerful tubes, which took them above British standard levels.

Ross Finnie, of the Liberal Democrats, questioned why this was not against the law, even where an operator "wilfully changes" the standard. "Are you telling me that would not be an offence?" said Mr Finnie.

Mr Shaw replied: "Not in itself, unless it leads to a problem – a provable problem."

This prompted an angry reaction from the former environment minister. "Absolutely useless," Mr Finnie said of the standard. "It isn't worth a row of beans." He added: "There's no protection for the public in this matter and that's very serious."

The committee also heard from Lene Priess, of the Consol Suncenter, and Kathy Banks, the chief executive of the Sunbed Association. Ms Priess, director of the Consol Centre, which operates more than 20 unstaffed premises, said there was a greater risk of children developing cancer on a foreign holiday.

"As a major, long-standing operator, we have no evidence of under-16s or children using or abusing our sunbeds, or even wanting to. The real risk to young people is holidaying abroad and over-exposing their skin over a short period of time."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She added that CCTV monitoring of premises indicated that no children were using them, as did market research the firm had carried out among youngsters. The firm's average session time was nine to ten minutes.

Labour's Helen Eadie, who backs a national licensing scheme, said international research had indicated a relationship between sunbeds and cancer, while British Medical Association research indicated that sunbed users were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop skin cancer.

"It's a professional body – professional opinion," she told Ms Priess. "Why is it that we allow unregulated and unlicensed products that are likely to give skin cancer and kill people?"

But this was rejected by Ms Priess. "I think saying that sunbeds are killing people is an overstatement," she said.

The major factors in developing a malignant melanoma stemmed from family history and skin type, she said.

"Repeated burning is the risk factor; over-exposure is the risk factor," Ms Priess said.

"But to go out in the sun and behave responsibly, you do not have a risk factor," she insisted.