POLITICS

Fake and bake no more for teens: MP pushes for tanning bed age limits

05/08/2012 03:42 EDT | Updated 07/08/2012 05:12 EDT
OTTAWA - Conservative MP James Bezan is hoping to make that pre-prom visit to the tanning salon a thing of the past for Canadian teens.

Just as the American media dissect the details of a New Jersey mother charged with bringing her five-year-old into a tanning booth, Bezan is pushing for age limits on the use of the devices.

Bezan's private member's bill would ban the use of tanning beds and booths for Canadians under the age of 18. It would also require warning signs to be posted in salons, and labels to be affixed to tanning equipment.

An unnaturally orange-coloured New Jersey woman was charged with child endangerment last week when she allegedly brought her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth, a story that has gone viral internationally.

Bezan, whose wife Kelly successfully fought melanoma twice in the past, said it's alarming how many young people are being diagnosed with a disease that used to be most common among seniors.

"This time of year, leading up to grad, we're seeing more and more teenagers — and not just girls — making use of tanning equipment," said Bezan, who says he and his wife had used tanning beds in their younger years.

"That is a disturbing fact, and also that melanoma is the number three cancer among women under the age of 30."

An age limit on indoor tanning has already been put in place in Nova Scotia, and British Columbia announced similar legislation in March. The Ontario NDP's health critic has her own private members' bill with the same goal.

France, Germany and Australia ban the use of tanning equipment by those under 18.

The Joint Canadian Tanning Association, which represents the indoor tanning industry, has been calling for provincial regulations that would strengthen voluntary guidelines. Those guidelines include parental consent for those under 18, not an outright ban.

The association would also like to see better regulation on certification and training for those who sell tanning services.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared tanning equipment a known carcinogen.

As if to highlight the prevalence of skin cancers, a handful of parliamentarians and their staff were told to seek extra medical advice after being screened Monday for skin cancer on Parliament Hill.

About fifty MPs, senators and other Parliament Hill staff attended the Melanoma Monday screening by the Canadian Dermatology Association.

The association confirmed Tuesday that "a handful" of the participants had been referred for additional care and that biopsies of their moles were required. In 2006, doctors told former MP Bill Casey to get a suspicious mole checked — that led to a diagnosis of malignant melanoma and treatment.

According to 2011 statistics, Melanoma is now the 8th most common cancer in Canada, affecting 5,500 last year and killing 950 Canadians.