Sunbed ban proposal receives political tanning

Government wants to ban under 18s from using sunbeds, but opposition argues it is another move by the ‘nanny state’

Sunbeds pose such a serious health risk to young Danes that the government has proposed banning under 18s from using them.

Despite a dip in usage − in 2006, as many as 50 percent of 15 to 19-year-olds had used a sunbed in the past 12 months − young Danes continue to be the world’s most prolific users of sunbeds, which have been demonstrated to significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Health minister Astrid Krag (Socialitisk Folkeparti) said this was a good reason to limit the use of sunbeds by young people.

“We regulate many dangerous things in society, and there is no doubt that using sunbeds are dangerous,” Krag told DR news.

The cancer research association, Kæftens Bekæmpelse, welcomed the government’s proposal.

“We know that suffering burns after being exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation in your youth can increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer later in life,” Kræftens Bekæmpelse spokesperson, Peter Dalum, said in a press release. “Using a sunbed just once a month will double or triple the risk of getting cancer.”

The government will need the support of the far-left party Enhedslisten to pass the law after the opposition parties all expressed dissatisfaction.

Among the complaints is the potential economic impact on the tanning salons, as the solariums are mostly unstaffed and will need to employ staff to check the age of users.

In Norway, where a ban was introduced in July, the sunbed industry fears widespread closures once the requirement to check the identity of users is enforced in 2014.

“The consequence of the manning requirement will mean that 97 percent of sunbeds will close because of increased salary costs,” Ronny Pedersen, the chairman of Norsk Solarieforening, a Norweigan industry group, told the Ritzau news bureau.

The health spokesperson for Liberal Alliance, Joachim B Olsen, told Berlingske that forcing salons to check the identity of users would be problematic for the industry. He added that the law was removing the right of people to be responsible for their own bodies.

“People should be allowed to assess the risk of using sunbeds on their own,” Olsen said.

Benedikte Kjær (Konservative) acknowledged that sunbeds did pose a health risk, but thought introducing an age limit was not the right move.

“Studies have shown that the use of sunbeds is definitely a problem among young Danes,” Kjær told Berlingske. “But instead of banning it, we should provide better information than we do today.”

Health minister Krag’s response to these accusations was straightforward.

“We should focus our attention on the young women − too many of whom are developing cancer,” Krag said in a press release.

Government parties Socialdemokrater and Socialistiske Folkeparti have long supported banning children from using sunbeds. While in opposition in 2010, they failed to get a law passed banning their use by under 16s.

Iceland, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Portugal, along with Norway, have all recently introduced bans on under 18s using sunbeds.