Queensland, the Sunshine State, boasts an average of 263 days of sun a year and, in a culture where tanning has somehow become synonymous with health, residents and tourists of our sun-kissed State have become obsessed with obtaining a tan. Thankfully, over the years a number of public education campaigns have highlighted the risks associated with tanning. However, early campaigns, such as “Slip Slop Slap”, predominately focused on the dangers of UV radiation from the sun. While such campaigns have been largely successful, with the incidence of sunburn decreasing, many of our Gold Coast residents have instead swapped the sun for solariums in pursuit of the perfect tan.
WHO confirmed link between solariums and skin cancer
While it was previously thought that solarium use could aid in treating some types of skin conditions and mood disorders, in 2009 the World Health Organisation dismissed these claims and went one step further by confirming a link between solarium use and cancer. More recent research concerning skin cancer and solarium use is quite alarming, with researchers identifying a 20% risk of melanoma from sunbed use, rising to 59% if solarium exposure occurs before 35 years of age. In addition to dramatically increasing the risk of developing a sinister form of skin cancer, solarium use can also cause a number of other health problems including eye damage, deterioration of the skin, premature aging, blotchiness, pigmentation, skin irritation, and skin burns.
Highest rate of skin cancer
Queensland currently has the highest rate of skin cancer diagnosis in the world, with melanoma being the most common form of cancer diagnosed in women under 35. Despite melanoma being the most preventable form of cancer, avid tanners have continued to subject themselves to these deadly risks each time they use a solarium. With readily available research highlighting the undeniable risks of solarium use, why are our Gold Coast residents not giving proper consideration to the real cost of a tan?
The significant risks associated with solarium use prompted many organisations – including the Cancer Council – to strongly support nationwide solarium bans. The movement to ban commercial solariums also gained further traction following the high profile case of Clare Oliver; who displayed great courage in speaking out and educating others about the risk of tanning, and solariums, until her tragic death from melanoma in 2007.
Since Clare’s death, most Australian States and Territories have taken steps to either ban commercial solariums or further regulate the commercial solarium industry.
Commercial solariums are banned
Recently, the Queensland Government took steps to announce that the supply, use, and ownership of commercial solariums would be banned as at 31 December 2014. Reactions to date have been mixed, with some applauding the state-wide ban, some arguing the ban reaches too far, and others instead pushing for stricter laws concerning personal solarium use.
While commercial solariums will be banned in Queensland at the end of this year, this ban does not extend to solariums purchased for private use. Under the buy-back scheme, the State Government pledged to reimburse commercial solarium owners $5,000.00 per sunbed when surrendered before April 2014. Compensation has now been decreased to $1,000.00 per sunbed, leading up to the 31 December deadline. Surprisingly, very few solarium businesses on the Gold Coast have taken steps to accept this compensation, with 46 solariums still in operation on the Gold Coast as at the date of this article. Most commercial solariums are instead promising their loyal customers to remain in complete operation until the ban comes into effect.
At present, there is no obligation for businesses to surrender their solariums to the Government and commercial owners can instead sell their machines to private buyers. With the compensation for the surrender of solariums now reduced to $1,000.00 per machine, the sale to private buyers will become more attractive to commercial owners.
The increase in private solarium purchasing leading up to the 31 December ban has caused concerns of an impending underground tanning blackmarket. The increased health risks associated with private, unregulated, solariums have experts pushing for a complete ban of private solarium ownership altogether. At present, the State cannot eliminate non-commercial sunbeds and, while illegal black market commercial operators will face heavy penalties, there is nothing to deter private solarium use.
No tan is ever worth your life
Overexposure to UV radiation from solariums already poses a considerable risk for individuals, even when used in accordance with current regulations. Great consideration should therefore be given as to how solariums may be used in a private environment, particularly given that the type of UV radiation emitted from a solarium is very different that generated by the sun, with solariums producing up to three times the strength of midday summer sun. With no safe way to use a solarium, individuals who use private sunbeds after the ban will continue to increase their personal risk of developing melanoma, a very preventable form of cancer.
Solariums that have operated on the Gold Coast without providing adequate warnings to users about the dangers of s UV radiation may face a significant liability in respect of individuals that develop sinister conditions like melanoma through sun bed use.
Turner Freeman Lawyers encourages individuals and business in this area to embrace the state wide ban on commercial solariums.
In short, no tan will ever be worth your life.
 BoniolM, Autier P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ 2012 July 24;345:e4757.