Thunder Bay’s regional hospital has put in its support for a private member’s bill that would ban youth under the age of 18 from using tanning beds.
MPP France Gelinas (NDP, Nickel Belt) introduced the bill on Thursday. The current Ontario regulations require youth under 16 to have written permission before getting a tan at a salon.
Kelly-Jo Gillis, manager for preventive services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, said the evidence shows tanning beds aren’t good for anyone and they would support the move by the NDP to ban youth from using them.
“There’s no safe exposure to tanning,” Gillis said. “The tanning industry will often tell people that it is healthier than sitting in the sun or that they are getting their dose of vitamin D but the evidence shows there is no safe tanning. It’s damaging cells, which is often linked to cancer. As a cancer organization and at the hospital we would definitely support what they are trying to do with the private member’s bill.”
Gillis said the bill takes the option of tanning out of the equation and would help the youth think more about what the sun is doing to their body.
Cases of skin cancer and melanoma have gone up in recently years. Gillis said melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer but it’s easily preventable.
Similar to what has happened with the tobacco industry, banning tanning beds for youth is a step to make using them socially unacceptable, she said.
Gillis added that the hospital is holding a clinic and awareness drive on Saturday, May 5 at 10 a.m.
Terry Gallant, owner of Ozone Tanning Parlour and Beach Wear, said he’s not too worried about the bill impacting his business too much because youth under 18 only make up about two per cent of his clients.
Gallant said his parlour has always stressed proper skin care and how long a person should be tanning for so they don’t damage their skin. Anyone who comes into the salon to get a tan gets this information handed.
He said the debate about tanning beds has been going on for some time.
“It’s not really a concern,” Gallant said. “This is a topic of discussion for a lot of different parlours and a lot of different salons all across the country right now. The negative press probably affects us a lot worse than the two per cent business. We understand that if there are laws coming in then there’s not a lot we can do about it. Our only concern is how it is going to be implemented.”
With MPPs focusing on all the negative aspects of tanning in order to push the bill, Gallant said there’s not too many out there telling the other side of the story.
The important thing to do is to make the industry as professional as possible so people are tanning properly, he said.
“If people choose to do something they do it as safely as they possibly can,” he said. “That’s always been our focus at Ozone and that’s what we’ve done for the last 15 years and we try to give our clients the best service possible.”
One local salon owner, who did not want to give her name, thought the idea to ban youth was a good idea. Even before the ban was proposed, she said she never let anyone under the age of 18 use her tanning bed.
“I never agreed with kids going into the tanning bed,” she said. “When I heard that on the news I thought that was good. Tanning beds are great to use if used properly. I don’t believe it is meant for shake and bake. It is meant for when you are going on a vacation and you need a base.”
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib. Thunder Bay – Atikokan) said he’s hasn’t read the legislation yet and wanted to go over it before he formed an opinion. He said he has met with representatives with the Canadian Cancer Society and knows they are supportive of the bill.