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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Sheridan backing sunbed controls
Tommy Sheridan MSP
Tommy Sheridan says he uses sunbeds "once or twice a week"
Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan has given his support to a bill calling for tighter controls on sunbed salons.

A bill put forward by Labour Ken Macintosh MSP, which would require councils to license all salons, is now the subject of a consultation.

Mr Sheridan, who is famed for his bronze appearance and admits using sunbeds "once or twice a week", said the proposals would be a positive move.

A cancer charity said regulation could impact on future skin cancer rates.

"Sunbeds are very popular and in the climate of Scotland, will unfortunately continue to be so," said the former leader of the Scottish Socialists.

"However, if we can make their use more responsible, and thus slightly safer, then that is a positive measure."

It is no exaggeration to say that Scotland faces a skin cancer epidemic
John Sleith
REHIS spokesman

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Scotland, with more than 7,000 new cases each year.

Malignant melanoma, the most deadly form, accounts for about 10% of cases.

Scotland has more sunbed salons per head of population than any other part of the UK.

The World Health Organisation has highlighted "growing evidence" that the ultraviolet radiation emitted by sunbeds could increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Genevieve Frisby, manager of Cancer Research UK's skin cancer protection campaign SunSmart, said the charity supported the principle of Mr Macintosh's bill.

Coin-operated sunbeds

"Regulating salons could make a significant impact on future skin cancer rates," she said.

"Public perceptions of cosmetic tanning as desirable, and the increasing use of sunbeds, have contributed to the rise in skin cancer cases in Scotland since the 1970s.

"We believe that UV artificial tanning should be restricted to over-16s and that the practice of using unmanned coin-operated sunbeds should be discontinued as soon as possible."

The Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland (REHIS) has also urged MSPs to support the bill.

Ken Macintosh
It is increasingly clear that a voluntary regulation scheme is ineffective
Ken Macintosh MSP

It conducted a survey of almost 800 sunbed premises in Scotland in 2003 which found that more than 50 were unsupervised and many had no control over the age of customers.

The study also uncovered complaints about skin burning, standards of cleanliness and cases of people becoming trapped in the equipment.

REHIS spokesman John Sleith said: "It is no exaggeration to say that Scotland faces a skin cancer epidemic.

"It is young people that we are most concerned about. We need laws in place to set rigorous standards."

Mr Macintosh, the Labour MSP for Eastwood, said: "It is increasingly clear that a voluntary regulation scheme is ineffective and I am now convinced of the need for formal regulation in this area.

"Regulation could be a major step forward in the drive to control Scotland's skin cancer epidemic."

The MSP, who chairs Holyrood's cross-party group on cancer, hopes the three-month consultation will gain Scottish Executive and cross-party support for his bill.

'Listen closely'

An executive spokesman said ministers would "listen closely" to the debate although regulation was subject to health and safety legislation, which is a reserved matter.

He added: "In 1998 the Health Education Board for Scotland (now NHS Health Scotland) adopted the position, based on evidence, that there is 'no safe level of use' for artificial tanning devices."

The Sunbed Association said the proposals were in line with the standards set out in its own code of practice.

Chief executive Kathy Banks said: "Where there are problems of disreputable tanning salons, we would accept that licensing would help to resolve the problem.

"Our members already operate to a very high standard through self-regulation and we would recommend that anyone looking to use a sunbed should do so in a TSA member facility."

Listen to the concerns over sunbeds

Boys burned on unmanned sunbeds
27 Aug 04 |  Scotland
Sunbed parlours feel the heat
27 Aug 03 |  Scotland
Sunbed hotspots warned of dangers
11 Apr 03 |  Scotland

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