A Consumer NZ mystery shop of 60 sunbed operators found more than 40 percent failed to implement key safety checks. One operator also allowed a 14-year-old to use a sunbed, despite the industry’s voluntary standard restricting sunbed use to people 18 years and over.
Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said the results show regulation of the sector is needed. Parliament’s Health Select Committee has recommended amending the law to make it illegal for operators to allow under-18s to use a sunbed. The amendment is contained in the Health (Protection) Amendment Bill. “We support the Bill but don’t think it goes far enough. We want to see a total ban on sunbeds and are disappointed the Health Select Committee didn’t endorse this,” Ms Chetwin said.
“Although this year’s survey has shown an improvement in compliance with the voluntary standard, many operators are still not complying with key safety criteria. Restricting sunbed use to people 18 and over won’t remedy the problems we’ve found.”
Under the voluntary standard, people using a sunbed should be given a consent form to sign that checks their age, spells out the risks of sunbed use, makes it clear who’s at high risk and emphasises the importance of wearing protective goggles. Thirteen operators didn’t provide this. Eleven operators didn’t do a formal skin assessment, which is important because certain skin types are more susceptible to UV damage.
Compliance with the standard requires notices in sunbed cubicles about the dangers of UV exposure and warning specific groups about their higher risk. Twelve operators didn’t display all the warnings recommended in the standard.
In 2011, the Commerce Commission warned the industry it shouldn’t make false or misleading claims about the health benefits and risks of sunbed use. Ms Chetwin said 12 operators displayed a poster that contained claims that implied sunbed use was beneficial. “Sunbeds are not a safe way to tan or boost vitamin D levels. We’ll be making a further complaint to the Commerce Commission.”
Some countries have already banned sunbeds. By the end of 2015 most Australian states will have banned solariums. Brazil introduced a ban in 2009.