Only seven of 69 sunbed operators get pass mark - survey

By Martin Johnston

Simon Bridges. Photo / APN
Simon Bridges. Photo / APN

A National MP is considering writing a private member's bill to force sunbed operators to comply with guidelines designed to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

The move comes after a Consumer NZ survey of the industry, published in December, found that only seven of 69 operators passed all the checks.

NZ and the Cancer Society have long pressed Governments to regulate the industry, based on the voluntary Australia-New Zealand standard.

Tauranga backbencher Simon Bridges said yesterday he was researching the industry and considering drafting legislation to put in the ballot for member's bills.

"The international evidence is that sunbeds increase your likelihood of skin cancer. It's also clear that the younger you are the higher the risk of harm, so there are strong arguments for regulation regarding younger people."

This week Health Minister Tony Ryall - like one of his predecessors in the previous, Labour-led Government - hinted at tighter controls if efforts to raise operators' awareness about the voluntary industry standard failed.

Most Australian states, and many European countries and American states regulate the industry.

Mr Bridges' comments follow the Herald's report yesterday on Kathryn Wilson, who was badly burned in a sunbed and diagnosed with malignant melanoma eight years later.

The 40-year-old Tauranga executive assistant and mother of two had surgery 18 months ago and has tested clear for cancer.

After her treatment, she was told she had a 47 per cent chance of being alive in five years, and she must have regular checks.

She blames the sunbed burn for her disease, although she acknowledges that sunbathing when she was younger may have contributed.

New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In 2008, 2256 new melanoma cases and 317 deaths were reported. Ultraviolet light from sunbeds is an established skin cancer risk factor.

The Commerce Commission on Monday cautioned the sunbed industry about overstating the benefits and understating the risks of sunbeds.

The commission sent a warning letter to the industry's 280 operators and distributors of sunbeds after looking into a complaint by Consumer NZ and the Cancer Society that operators had made misleading claims.

The commission said it had put the industry on notice and would follow up to ensure compliance with the Fair Trading Act.

Under a voluntary standard, sunbed operators are meant to:

* Turn away people aged under 18 and those with very fair skin.
* Display mandatory health warnings.
* Provide consent form outlining risks, which clients read and sign.
* Ensure staff are trained to assess skin type and determine exposure times.

- NZ Herald

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