Written March 18, 2013
Seventeen year-old Darrian Capizzo doesn’t like the look of her pale skin tone, so she makes a few trips a week to tan indoors at her local Fabutan salon in Ajax, Ont. “A tan makes me feel more confident… and being tanned is somehow portrayed as beautiful,” says Capizzo.
However, teens like Capizzo under the age of 18 won’t be able to maintain their bronzed skin tone year-round for much longer. The Ontario Minister of Health Deb Matthews introduced a bill on Mar. 7, 2013 installing a provincial ban preventing teens under 18 from using indoor tanning beds. The ban is a part of Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care and could be enforced as soon as this October.
When the bill comes into action, all tanning salons across Ontario will be required to prohibit the sale of tanning services to those under 18, request identification from patrons who appear under the age of 25, post signs stating the ban on minors and the health risks of tanning bed use, refrain from advertising and marketing of tanning services aimed at youth under 18. Consequences for ban violators include a maximum fine of $25,000 for salon corporations.
David Jensen, a communications officer for the Ministry of Health says he is looking forward to the new tanning regulations.
“Tanning is a definite health risk for youth… especially because [tanning beds] are considered to be carcinogenic to humans,” says Jensen, “on top of that, tanning is in the high cancer risk category along with tobacco and asbestos.”
According to the Ministry of Health, the use of tanning beds by youth aged 12 to 17 in Ontario rose from five to eight per cent between 2006 and 2012; and teens in grade 11 and 12 showed the highest increase from seven to 16 per cent.
However, tanning supporters and members of the tanning industry are not as upset about the ban as they are about the negative stigma of tanning.
Two of Canada’s largest tanning franchises, Fabutan and Palm Beach Mega Tan already have internal means of regulating teen tanning. Both salons require parental permission before teens are allowed to tan and cap exposure times. Although the number of tanning teens is rising, youth under 18 only comprise eight per cent of Mega Tan’s overall clientele – Fabutan’s number is even lower at slightly higher than two per cent.
Palm Beach Mega Tan’s Franchise and Sales Coordinator Harry Jones thinks the ban is unfair to both the tanning industry and the teens that want to tan.
“There are too many government controls over people’s lives already, and something as simple as a suntan should be an individual decision,” says Jones, “let’s face it, a 16 year old can drive a car, get an abortion, drive a high powered speed boat and skydive all without any controls, so banning them from tanning doesn’t seem to make much sense to me.”
Meanwhile, Fabutan CEO Mat Rockey says the youth tanning ban has been very successful for his company and believes the ban should be extended nationally due to its success in other provinces such as Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The biggest challenge for Rockey is overcoming what he calls “misinterpreted statistics being used as scare tactics” against the tanning industry.
“What frustrates me the most is the science they use to discredit our business… it’s offensive that it [the misinterpretations] has made it this far” says Rockey.
“There isn’t any talk about the skin types that are at the highest risk of skin cancer. People with skin type one or two, (those who burn easily) are either not allowed to tan at our salons or their set time in the beds are extremely minimal.”
Jones agrees with Rockey and he references a World Health Organization’s statistic he feels is misleading.
“Nobody tells us the actual numbers because they are sure or are just regurgitating what others have said…” Jones argues, “for example if the statistics are one in 100,000 people die from melanoma under the age of 35, and your risk of getting skin cancer increases by 75 per cent, that number changes to 1.75 people in 100,000 people. Realistically, that’s a pretty minimal increase.”
The reality is, tanning teens always won’t want to break the habit despite the new law.
“Teens under 18 may decide to tan outdoors or purchase a home tanning unit,” says Jones, “this means no controls on exposure time, and they could burn more often, which causes skin damage.”
Capizzo says if she can’t tan inside she will soak up some UV rays outside during summer months.
“I choose to tan, so if anything happened it would be my own fault, therefore I’ll have be responsible about my decision in the future,” says Capizzo.