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tanning bed
Groundbreaking new tanning bed legislation--a first for Canada

Nova Scotia has become the first province in Canada to ban people under 19 years of age from using tanning beds.

"Excessive exposure to UV rays over the long-term can have negative health effects," said Maureen MacDonald, Minister of Health Promotion and Protection. "Restricting access to tanning beds to those under 19 years of age is a preventative approach to protect the health and safety of our youth."

The legislation, which was passed as 2010 came to a close, is an important step in ensuring young people are protected from the harmful – and cancer-causing – UV rays associated with tanning beds. “They are simply not safe,” says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Public Health Officer.

The Tanning Beds Act, he adds, will do much more than protect young people. “It will help to make both youth and adults aware of the dangers of tanning beds. Longer term it will help to reduce rates of melanoma in Nova Scotia.”

“Ultimately, the goal is to change behaviour and how people view tanning,”
says Gary O’Toole, Director of Environmental Health with the Department of Health Promotion and Protection.

Sun Safe Nova Scotia, a coalition, coordinated by Cancer Care Nova Scotia, first proposed restricting tanning bed use six years ago. Last June the province’s physicians, through Doctors Nova Scotia, also urged the government to create – and pass – this groundbreaking legislation.

“Up until now, the public has received inaccurate information about tanning bed safety with the industry promoting messages about potential benefits of Vitamin D and a ‘base tan,’” notes Dr. Peter Green, a dermatologist and Chair of the Sun Safe Nova Scotia coalition. “This legislation acknowledges the World Health Organization’s categorization of tanning beds as a type I carcinogen and
challenges the myth of a ‘safe tan.’”

The use of tanning beds, which emit 10 to 15 times more UV than the midday summer sun, has grown significantly in Nova Scotia in the last two decades. In 1991, there were 27 registered tanning beds in the province. Last year, there were roughly 160.

“It’s our hope that the legislation will not only limit youth access to tanning beds but start dispelling many of the tanning myths physicians hear in their practice,” says Doctors Nova Scotia President Dr. Jane Brooks. “This legislation is also an opportunity to get Nova Scotians thinking about sun safety in a broader way.”

“Physicians across the province were seeing more and more young tanning bed users showing up in their offices,” she adds. “Many patients had no idea that tanning beds were carcinogenic and could cause serious health issues.”

The legislation, which is expected to be proclaimed this year, will have two thrusts. In 2011, the emphasis will be on education, ensuring that everyone – including salons – is aware of the new rules and what it means for them, says Dr. Strang. “The following year, the focus will be on enforcement and ensuring that companies are complying with the law.”

“We anticipate that our enforcement efforts will be similar to those used to ensure cigarettes are not sold to minors,” says Dr. Strang.

Nova Scotia’s new legislation is attracting attention from across the country, notes Mr. O’Toole. “Other provinces have been in touch with us to find out more. There is an interest in protecting youth from a process known to cause cancer.”

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