Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Health Secretary Burnham backs under-18s sun bed ban

Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts said it was beyond belief girls as young as 11 were in salons unsupervised

Health Secretary Andy Burnham has given the government's backing to a call to ban tanning salons from allowing under-18s to use sun beds.

Mr Burnham, who spoke at the launch of a private member's bill, said there was "clear" evidence sun beds increased the risk of skin cancer.

The bill was introduced by Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan on Wednesday.

Ms Morgan said she hoped Mr Burnham's support would help the bill become law before the next general election.

A Cancer Research UK report, commissioned by the government, suggests 6% of children aged 11 to 17 have used a sun bed, with the figure rising to 11% in the north of England.

Earlier, in a statement, Mr Burnham said it was "far too easy" for young people to use sun beds and he was "determined to take action to protect them".

"I fully support this bill, which will force tanning salons to ban access for people under 18 years old," he said.

Ms Morgan said she was "delighted" to have Mr Burnham's support for the bill, which would affect Wales and England.

Scotland banned the use of sun beds by under-18s in December.

Cross-party support

The proposed bill would ban under-18s from using sun beds

Ms Morgan said: "It's a bill that's urgently needed. If you get backing from the secretary of state there's that much more chance we'll get it through.

"It's absolutely great."

Ms Morgan also wants to see the use of sun beds for adults supervised. At present it is not illegal to operate unattended salons.

She said the campaign had cross-party as well as public support.

But she added: "It will still be tough for a private member's bill to get through."

The bill, launched by Ms Morgan and Cancer Research UK, will have its second reading on 29 January.

Sarah Woolnough, head of policy at Cancer Research UK, said coin-operated sun beds and unstaffed salons - which offer cheap deals - made sun beds "extremely appealing" to young people.

Using sun beds before the age of 35 increases the chances of melanoma by 75%
Sun beds emit UV rays with an intensity up to 10 to 15 times higher than that of the Sun
They are linked to about 100 deaths in the UK every year from melanoma skin cancer
Monthly use of a sun bed can increase the risk of skin cancer by more than 50%
Source: Cancer Research UK

"We are concerned that unless action is taken to ensure salons are staffed young sun bed users will continue to put themselves at risk of skin cancer.

"Research shows that first using a sun bed under the age of 35 increases the risk of developing skin cancer by 75%," she said.

The bill is supported by Nicola Roberts, 24, of Girls Aloud, who is making a documentary about the dangers of the tanning industry and said she had "learnt to love" her pale skin after years of using fake tan.

Hollyoaks actress Gemma Merna has also given her backing.

"When I was younger I just wanted to look tanned and to fit in with everyone and didn't give any thought to the risks I was taking," she said.

"I now realise the damage that sun beds can do and support any move to ban them to under-18s."

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