By Marc Venema
The City of Belleville is looking into a bylaw, similar to one just passed in Oakville, that would see tanning bed usage banned to minors.
“Staff has got a copy of the bylaw and we are going to do some research and it would be brought forward at our next meeting,” said Belleville Mayor Neil Ellis.
On Monday night, Oakville became the first municipality in Ontario to pass such a bylaw. It came after many years of debate over health issues caused by tanning beds. The Oakville bylaw makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use one.
Local health officials in the Quinte region applauded the move.
“We were very excited, we were hooting and hollering,” said Heather Gray, manager of the Hastings Prince Edward County and Brighton unit of the Canadian Cancer Society. “We are working very hard with our volunteers on trying to get some movement on indoor tanning beds so it was a great accomplishment.”
Ellis said the bylaw falls under the “licensing bylaw” in Belleville, which will be in front of council in September. Meanwhile, research on the issue will be completed by the city.
“It’s a matter of bringing all the information forward,” Ellis said. “I think there will be information on both sides that council will hear from.”
Gray said the local cancer society has made presentations at council meetings in the past, all with positive results.
“Quinte West, Belleville, Brighton, and Prince Edward County all forwarded a recommendation to the province asking the province to move on the issue.”
She said the local cancer society is hoping for a complete province-wide, or even a national ban on tanning by minors. A private members bill will be presented this fall, if things go the way of the cancer society, a complete ban could be implemented, in the meantime, she hopes more municipalities like Oakville take the problem into their own hands.
The biggest risk associated with indoor tanning beds is the risk of melanoma, said Gray.
“Anyone that uses indoor tanning beds before the age of 35; if you use it even once, that increases your risk of melanoma by 75 per cent,” Gray said. “It’s a very needless risk, it’s something that we can avoid.”
She said the big focus is to protect youth.
“They are less likely to understand the dangers involved and very often they will go ahead and use the tanning beds regardless of what their parents wishes are.”
Dianna Cairns, owner of Palm Beach Mega Tan in Trenton and Belleville, said precautions are taken to ensure the safety of teens.
“When we tan teens, we teach them responsibility on how to care for their skin,” Cairns said. “They’re completely controlled environments, all of our staff are smart tan certified, they’re all completely trained on skin typing, we set the times in the beds.”
Cairns said the Vitamin D that the body takes in during a tan has many positives for both children and teenagers.
She said anyone under the age of 15 is not allowed to tan, while anyone under 16 needs a parental signature. Anyone aged 17 and up can walk right in and get a tan, according to Cairns.
But rules to prevent young teens from tanning without a parental signature aren’t working, said Gray.
“We had a group of teenagers go in to different tanning beds to see if they could get in (without parental signature) and they permitted them to use them,” Gray said.
“The controls that are in place aren’t working, they aren’t protecting our young people, yet it’s vitally important.”
Cairns said “a good 15 per cent” of her business are people under the age of 18. She said a city bylaw or a provincial or federal ruling to change the rules around would hurt business, but only to a certain extent.
“It’s not going to close my doors by any means,” she said. “But it’s going to have a big impact.”