Sunbed ban for under-18s in bid to cut skin cancer
Under-18s will be outlawed from using sunbeds from the end of next month.
The move will also see all adults, particularly those with fair skin, warned about the cancer-causing dangers of tanning booths.
The ban on young people using the commercial sunbeds is part of long-awaited legislation which is now in place. It is to be rolled out on a phased basis in a bid to slash the growing numbers of people who are developing skin cancer.
Health Minister James Reilly, who pushed through the new laws, said girls who might have thought a sunbed session was essential to look their best for school debs dances should opt for make-up instead.
"The debs is a huge event for people coming out of school and marketing makes girls believe they must have a tan to look their best. There's plenty of make-up they can use without doing damage to their skin," he advised.
It will also mean an end to girls getting a tan for their First Holy Communion or other occasions such as Irish dancing feiseanna or other events.
There are around 800 salons in the country which are to be policed by environmental health officers who will work with the operators initially to build up compliance.
The first phase is the ban on use by anyone under 18 and owners will be obliged to ask for identification of age. The penalties for operators for a breach of the law is €4,000 for a first offence and €5,000 for a second.
The law also requires operators to warn adults of the dangers and have written information available. There will be a ban on some special offers, while all operators must be trained by early next year.
Dr Reilly said he had treated patients who had skin cancer in their 30s and warned it is now the fastest growing cancer in Ireland with over 10,000 new cases annually.
He said: "I would ask all sunbed users to consider the pain and scarring and even possible death that can result from skin cancer and to ask themselves 'is it worth it?' Is having a 'healthy' tan really worth risking my life?"
Marie Ryan, of the Environmental Health Officers Association, said they will be monitoring salons from next month to end the practice of young people "scorching their skin."
Caitriona Stack, another environmental health officer, said: "We know that a substantial proportion of those using sunbeds are young people, especially girls. Their use becomes particularly intense around debs season and before summer holidays when sunbeds are used to give skin a so-called base-tan."
She added: "The most rapidly increasing cancers in the world are those of the skin, both melanoma and non-melanoma in both sexes. The danger surrounding sunbed use and overexposure to UV rays is very real. It's time to protect vulnerable young skin from these dangers."