QUEBEC - Quebec teens looking to show off a golden salon tan at their prom will soon be out of luck thanks to new legislation tabled Tuesday.
The government, seeking to curb the increasing rates of deadly melanoma among the young, is banning tanning salons to those under 18 years old.
Health Minister Yves Bolduc hopes the legislation will be passed before the legislature's recess in June.
Youths who violate the law will face fines of $100 while a tanning salon that admits a minor will be fined up to $15,000.
The bill also seeks to ban advertising of artificial tanning for children and adolescents. Salons will have to post warnings informing customers of the harmful effects of tanning and the risks of skin cancer.
The provincial Health Department will hire two or three inspectors to enforce the law.
Bolduc said the government is seeking to protect minors who have less of a grasp of the seriousness of the situation. He added he is not seeking to extend the ban to cover the entire population.
"There is a question of individual rights and personal choice," he said.
The Canadian Cancer Society says exposure to indoor tanning before the age of 35 increases the danger of melanoma by 75 per cent.
Three-quarters of the cases of melanoma diagnosed in indoor tanners between the ages of 18 and 29 are due to the use of tanning beds, adds the Quebec public health institute, which estimates the ultraviolet rays emitted by the beds are between five and 15 times stronger than the midday sun.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The institute says around 250,000 Quebecers under the age of 30 went to a tanning salon last year, at a rate of once a month on average.
The cancer society and the Quebec association of dermatologists, which had both lobbied for a ban, praised the law.
They noted the number of cases of melanoma had doubled in Quebec in the last 15 years and each year there are 22,000 newly diagnosed cases of skin cancer in Quebec.
Dr. Joel Claveau, a spokesman for the dermatologists' association, said the law "sends a clear message to people that artificial tanning and even the sun is dangerous for our youth and for us, regardless of age.
"It is very important to take skin cancer seriously," he said, pointing out that last weekend a 30-year-old patient of his had died of melanoma.
"I diagnose almost 10 skin cancers every day," Claveau said.
An age limit on indoor tanning has already been put in place in Nova Scotia, while British Columbia announced similar legislation in March. The Ontario NDP's health critic has her own private member's bill with the same goal and a Conservative MP has also tabled a private member's bill in Parliament.
France, Germany and Australia have banned 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.