03/05/2014 11:03 EST | Updated 05/05/2014 05:59 EDT

Tanning salons targeted by Quebec consumer watchdog

Option Consommateurs, the province’s consumer watchdog, says Quebecers are ill-informed about the dangers of tanning beds and it’s asking federal and provincial legislators to consider new rules for salons.

Olivier Bourgeois of Option Consommateurs says users should be verbally informed of the risks of tanning before hopping into a booth.

This comes after members of the consumer group went undercover and found out that people under the age of 18 were being admitted to tanning salons — something which is recently illegal in Quebec.

In February 2013, a new law came into effect in Quebec banning people under the age of 18 from using tanning beds.

Option Consommateurs says it also discovered that some salons were accepting customers with high risk factors for skin cancer. One woman, who informed a tanning salon employee she was taking antidepressant drugs, was allowed to use a tanning bed, despite medical warnings against it.

According to Quebec’s public health institute (INSPQ), more than 250,000 Quebecers under the age of 30 used a tanning salon at least once a month in 2011.

Not dangerous for everyone?

Karen Hussel, who has worked at Bronzage Bishop in Montreal for five years, says that although tanning isn’t safe for everyone, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done safely.

“I’ve been tanning since I was 18 years old. I’m 53. Do I look all wrinkled up?” Hussel says.

She says some people come in for relief of specific health-related reasons, like arthritis or people with vitamin D deficiencies.

“There are positive aspects to the tanning, also,” she continues.

But the tanning industry in Quebec has fallen on tough times since the new law was ushered in.

Nathalie Vallières, the owner of a Vaudreuil tanning salon, says business has gone down substantially since February 2013.

She says not being able to serve minors is one of the major reasons for it, and also says more and more people are coming in asking about whether tanning will cause cancer.

The Canadian Cancer Society says skin cancer is the most common form of the disease, and that 90 per cent of cases are caused by ultraviolet rays.