The sunbed and tanning industry has welcomed new research that shows the sector's voluntary regulations are helping stamp out cowboy operators.

A second survey of solarium operators by the Ministry of Health shows the unregulated industry is getting better at understanding the dangers of UV radiation.

More operators are complying with the sector's voluntary standard, with 76 per cent of operators now performing skin assessments before clients use sunbeds, compared to 38 per cent in the first survey, done last year.

The number of sunbed operators is falling as more rules come in, but the ones still standing "seem to be improving their practices," Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew said today.


Industry Tanning Association New Zealand (INTANZ) welcomed the survey results, saying it had been an uphill struggle to clean up the sector.

"It shows a big improvement. All we've got at the moment is a voluntary standard, and the key word there is 'voluntary'," said spokesman Rene Fowler.

"So unfortunately, places like hairdressers, the gym, beauty salons and so on, they didn't even know the voluntary standard existed and we've been busy trying to make people aware of it and to adhere to it.

"But it's good to see the people who have stayed on are getting up with the play."

Amendments to the Health Act 1956 later this year will ban access to commercial sunbeds for people under 18 years of age.

INTANZ members have been working with Auckland City Council to shore up its bylaws, while licensing in Auckland will be introduced next July.

"We're committed to keep on improving the level of service and compliance operators have," Mr Fowler said.

Rosa Barnett, a certified tanning professional at megaSun which has two Auckland studios, said they currently don't allow under-18s unless they have a medical certificate advising them to tan.


Clients at megaSun are questioned on their skin, heritage, and other background questions to work out how long they should spend under the fake sun.

Ms Barnett said the voluntary standard has helped to stamp out the less professional outfits.

"We don't put people on who are going to burn," she said.

"Things have definitely improved. I get a lot of people who come in who used to go to sunbeds just in hair salons, but since the laws are getting a lot stricter in the last year or so, they've died out."

She also welcomed further regulation.

Benefits include vitamin D, and for dealing with skin complaints like eczema, she said.

"And it's really good for people building up a base tan before they go out in the sun for hours on end during the summertime."

Mrs Goodhew said while a large majority of operators appear to understand the risks and welcome Ministry visits, she raised concerns that some still don't appreciate the risks of exposure to UV radiation from sunbeds.

But Mr Fowler said sunbeds are not the key issue when it comes to skin cancer and melanoma in New Zealand.

"The tanning industry is tiny in this country compared to the people who go outdoors and burn."