ACT News

ACT bans commercial solariums from January 1

The ACT will join NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland to ban commercial solariums from January 1 at a time when use of sunbeds in Australia has reached an all-time low.

Just 1 per cent of adults and 0.3 per cent of adolescents used a solarium in the past year, a Cancer Council phone survey of more than 6000 people throughout Australia showed, reflecting a downward trend since 2003-04 when 2.2 per cent of adults and 1.2 per cent of 12-to-17-year-olds had used a sunbed.

Despite the low use, the chair of Cancer Council Australia's national skin cancer committee Vanessa Rock said the ban was important to stop future generations from using solariums and hosed down fears the ban will give rise to risky backyard solarium operators.

"We know the numbers are fairly small, but that's because a lot of the work the Cancer Council has done over the decade increasing the awareness around the risk of them," she said.

"We've found there is quite a clear link with solarium use and increased risk of melanoma."

Ms Rock said "frightening statistics" showed solarium use before the age of 35 increased the risk of melanoma by 59 per cent.

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"We are still seeing 1400 Australians dying each year from melanoma and we need to prevent people getting melanoma in the first place."

But the owner of a Canberra beauty salon with five solarium beds, who declined to be named, said young people were the least likely to use a sunbed.

She has spent "a fortune in solicitors" to fight the ban that she says will destroy her livelihood, but by December 31 will have to have all the beds gone or risk a hefty fine.

"It's an informed decision to use a solarium everyone knows the risk, its controlled tanning," she said.

"I don't advertise it; I don't pull people in by the scruff of their neck … I follow the government rules."

The operator said she spent $7000 rewiring her salon to conform to strict regulations introduced in 2010 on the understanding there would be no further changes.

She believes the ban will mean a boost in unlicensed backyard tanning businesses.

"I know several people who have purchased solariums and they're now having solarium parties," she said.

"If you take something legal and make it illegal it will grow like crazy, if you tell someone you can't do that they'll do it straight away and it's not controlled."

But Ms Rock said there was no evidence to suggest the ban would lead to a rise in home sunbeds.

"It's a massive machine so we're not talking about a little sunlamp, we are talking a bed," she said.

"The reason they've got such high UV levels is that they run significant electricity."

She said the country's Cancer Councils would be keeping a close watch to ensure home use of sunbeds does not increase.

Only 2 per cent of adolescents and 12 per cent of adults  in the Cancer Council survey said they had used a solarium, with women, at 18 per cent, and adults aged 25-44, at 16 per cent,  the most likely users.

While 79 per cent of adults and 67 per cent of adolescents supported the bans,  just 17 per cent of adolescents and 59 per cent of adults were aware of the impending change.

In 2010, the number of solarium businesses in ACT fell from 17 to four when people under 18 and those with pale skin were banned from using tanning beds.

The ACT government established a Solaria Disposal Inventive Scheme offering solarium operators $1000 for each registered sunbed that was "permanently disposed" of by a licensed disposal company.

Western Australia is set to ban sunbeds within the next 12 months, although a date is yet to be announced, and there are no commercial solariums operating in the Northern Territory, the Cancer Council says.