Teens ignore tanning's risks

Salons serving minors face hefty fines in growing U.S. crackdown


A growing number of Canadian teens are ignoring health warnings in search of the ultimate tan by frequenting tanning salons.

TORONTO (Jun 25, 2004)

Jamie Browne first asked her mother if she could go to a tanning salon when she was 14.

"Istarted going to a tanning bed to get a base or whatever, which is what Ido now,'' she said. Now, Jamie is three years older, and still tries to makeit to a tanning salon about once a week.

She said she tans under the sun a lot, but prefers to shell out for a booth or a bed whenever she can afford it.

"Igo to the salons when I have enough money because they're faster,'' saidthe Toronto-area high-school student. "I still go because I like the waymy skin looks when I use tanning booths.''

Jamie is one of many teenswho frequent tanning salons and spas despite mounting medical research thatlinks the activity to serious health problems.

Last year, researchersfound after an eight-year study of more than 100,000 Scandinavian women thatfrequent tanning booth users were 55 per cent more likely to develop malignantmelanoma, a form of skin cancer.

At the end of May, lawmakers in theCalifornia assembly passed a bill that would ban teens 18 and under fromtanning booths unless they have a prescription.

Backers of the bill,which is now going through the state senate, blamed tanning salons for partof the one million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year in the UnitedStates.

"If the law passes, there would be a fine imposed of $2,500a day to the indoor tanning facility if it is found that they have in factallowed minors to use the tanning beds,'' Karmi Ferguson, executive directorof the California Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, said fromSacramento.

As it is, California and 26 other states require permission from parents or guardians for teens to enter a tanning booth.

Whileneither Canada nor the provinces regulate the "fake bake'' industry, HealthCanada did put out guidelines for tanning booth operators in 1999.

It recommends that clients consider talking to their family physicians about the risks of tanning before .

Accordingto Health Canada, exposure to ultraviolet A and B radiation through any sortof tanning can cause sunburn, damage to your eyes and other health effects.

Italso recommends that suntan salon operators ascertain a client's abilityto tan, history of sunburns, rashes or other conditions.

It says thisinformation should be used for exposure planning and to help clients understandhow these factors interact with ultraviolet radiation.

Robert Muzzatti,owner of Off Beach Tanning in Toronto, says the benefits of tanning "faroutweigh the hazards. The sun is the giver of all life,'' he said. "You absolutelyneed it to survive.''

Dr. Louis Weatherhead, a dermatologist in Ottawa,disagrees. He says he tells his patients that there is "no such thing asa healthy tan.''

"Exposure to ultraviolet rays is cumulative,'' hesaid. "Every time you expose yourself to the sun, you're starting where youleft off.''

He says young people are likely worried about their skin colour because celebrities their age are permanently tanned.

"Young, old, or famous -- it's dangerous. I don't think anybody should be using tanning booths,'' he said.