Should we ban the tan?

Should we ban the tan?

sunbed tanning

The dangers of sunbeds are pretty well known and now loads of people are opting to ‘fake it’ as self tanning products have improved so much.  Even though this is the case around 10% of the population of Northern Europe uses sunbeds regularly - that’s, errm, millions of people.  Using sunbeds regularly before the age of 35 increases your risk of getting cancer by a shocking 75%.  People who have fair skin should never use sunbeds – but 40% of sunbed users in the UK are fair-skinned.

It was recently revealed that 9 out of 10 sunbeds in Britain were not meeting British Safety Standards.  The average radiation from sunbeds tested was twice as damaging to the skin as midday Mediterranean sun, some being up to 10 times stronger. So, 50p for a minute on a sunbed might not seem like a very high price but the cost to your health could be devastating.  There are concerns about the regulation of sunbeds as many appear to not abide by the laws.  The main law that is flouted is the accessibility of sunbed use to under 18s.


In England a sunbed ban for under 18s was introduced in 2011.  The reason behind the ban was to curb the amount of people developing melanoma. This could be the first step to a nationwide ban on sunbeds.

There is already a campaign in the UK for the ban of sunbeds ( which was started by a Stage Four Malignant Melanoma patient.  Skin cancer is the highest rising cancer in the UK and it is on the whole preventable.  And Sunbeds are classified as the same carcinogenic level as tobacco!  The campaign was inspired by the banning of sunbeds in some states of Australia.


It may seem like an extreme step to ban sunbeds but it is part of an Australian government plan to prevent skin cancer. When the Government in Victoria was developing a skin cancer prevention policy 161 dermatologists, cancer specialists and clinicians voted for a full ban on sunbeds in the state.

From the end of 2014 sunbeds will be banned in three states of Australia. Queensland, another Australian state, has not committed to implementing a ban yet but it is now illegal to buy new sunbeds for a salon. They will not be issuing any more licences.

Where sunbeds are being banned there is a problem of the livelihood of the sunbed owner. Some are arguing that they should receive compensation from the government. The health minister has said that none will be offered but with a year until the ban comes into effect they have the time to adjust and prepare for it.  Sunbeds can be seriously profitable - to ease the blow the New South Wales government will pay $1000 for each registered sunbed and dispose of them for free. This is to stop them being sold for use overseas or in private homes.


Unfortunately there has been evidence in the state of Victoria that, after tougher regulations were implemented, members of the public misunderstood and believe that using sunbeds is now safer.  The measures include stopping people with a high risk of skin cancer using sunbeds, tougher licensing and health warnings.  The numbers are scary: 39% of adolescents thinking that sunbeds are now safer to use. 

There has already been a full ban on sunbeds in Brazil so I reckon it’s only a matter of time before the debate comes to England.


People with naturally paler skin often feel pressure to use sunbeds in order to achieve the sun kissed glow seen on many models and actors.

London Fashion Week 2012 supported Cancer Research UK by banning models from using sunbeds.  Loads of people look up to models, and seeing pale skin on the catwalk may be more of an incentive not to visit the tanning shop.  If the potential health risks of using sunbeds aren’t enough to stop people using them perhaps the only way people be deterred from tanning is if embracing your natural colour becomes fashionable.  At the end of the day the media plays a big part in tans being associated by beauty.  Until this image is gone it will be hard to convince people otherwise. 


There’s always the argument when implementing a ban on something that it compromises people’s choice.  There are many things that are detrimental to our health and it would be impossible for the government to ban them all – so if a ban was to be considered, the question would be where do we draw the line? Australia’s ban has sparked controversy and some are campaigning to ‘reverse the tan ban’.

The banning of sunbed use for under 18s was accepted much more easily than a full ban would be.  People have much more of a problem with adults being banned from exercising their freedom to choose, that is after all part of being an adult.

We’d love to hear what you think about this hot topic. So e-mail us at DW@doctorwellgood.comand let us know if you think banning sunbeds is the best option or do you think it’s up to