The rejection of a call for an outright ban on commercial-sunbed use has dismayed the Cancer Society and a local skin-cancer specialist.

The parliamentary health select committee has recommended a partial ban, which would limit UV tanning services to those aged over 18.

"We are satisfied that the bill as introduced would protect the vulnerable under-18 age group and allow adults to make informed decisions about sunbed use in an environment of improved operator compliance," the committee's report on the Heath (Protection) Amendment Bill said.

Labour, NZ First and the Green Party argued that tanning beds were not safe and offered users no health benefits.

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A working group of members from the NZ Dermatological Society, Cancer Society of New Zealand and Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand are among those who have lobbied for a total ban.

Ben Tallon, who heads Tauranga-based Skin Dermatology Institute and a member of the working group which made submissions in support of an outright ban, said he was disappointed the committee failed to heed the unequivocal evidence about the substantial risks involved.

"The move to regulate who can use sunbeds is a positive step in the right direction but it does not go far enough to address our concerns. We know melanoma rates in the Bay of Plenty are well above the national average and research clearly links the use of sunbeds to melanoma," Dr Tallon said.

It was likely that New Zealand would eventually follow Australia's lead, with sunbeds banned in all states except Western Australia, which was now also looking into a total ban.

Waikato and Bay of Plenty Cancer Society health promotion manager Melanie Desmarias agreed.

"It just doesn't make sense to recommend a partial ban when all the evidence is clear there is increased melanoma risks from using sunbeds no matter what age you are and there are high skin cancer rates in the Bay of Plenty and in Tauranga," she said.

The rates of non-melanoma cancers linked to sunbeds was still unclear, but it was likely to be at least 67,000 people nationwide, she said.

Yo Roberts, who owns Forever Suntanz clinic in Otumoetai, applauded the move to impose a regulated ban for those aged under 18 but did not see the need for an outright ban.

"I agree you have to be mature enough to make a decision like this, as with anything. You have to be 18 to buy alcohol and cigarettes so using sunbeds should not be different," Mr Roberts said.

He followed Ministry of Health guidelines to the letter, which included limiting the use to clients aged 18 and over, and use to a maximum of half an hour a week, he said.

Clients used sunbeds for many reasons, some to alleviate symptoms of health conditions, he said.

A longstanding client at Forever Suntanz, who did not wish to be named, said he also approved of the proposed under-18 ban because users needed to be mature enough to make an informed choice.

"I have been coming here for 10 years without any problems. In my experience, sunbeds are far safer than going out in the sun because my UV exposure is controlled to keep me safe," he said.

Skin cancer - Bay of Plenty
• 160 registrations for melanoma skin cancer yearly
• 25 deaths from melanoma
• Non-melanoma skin cancers account for 90 per cent of all skin cancers
• BOP has higher skin-cancer and melanoma rates than the national average. Source:

- Waikato/Bay of Plenty Division Cancer Society of New Zealand


- Additional reporting NZME.