MP calls for sunbed ban on under-18s

Teenagers are putting their health at risk by becoming sunbed addicts, MPs heard today as a bid was launched to ban under-18s from tanning salons.

Labour's Julie Morgan warned that youngsters were putting themselves at increased risk of cancer by using the devices.

Her call for a ban has the backing of Cancer Research UK and the support of 87 per cent of the public who do not believe under-18s should use sunbeds, she told MPs.

Mrs Morgan's Sunbeds (Regulation) Bill was given a high profile launch at the Commons earlier this month, where it received the support of Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts.

The Bill would place a duty on salon operators to prevent the use of sunbeds by under-18s and gives local enforcement officers the power to inspect the businesses and penalise owners who breach the ban.

It would also allow ministers in England and Wales to regulate to stop children hiring or buying sunbeds and ban unmanned automatic tanning salons.

Clear health information would also be required in salons, setting out the dangers of sunbed use.

Opening a second reading debate, Mrs Morgan (Cardiff N) said: "Research commissioned by Cancer Research UK last year found that in England 6 per cent of 11-17 year-olds - and that's more than a quarter of a million children - have used sunbeds.

"I think that's quite a shocking statistic."

In "hotspots" such as Liverpool or Sunderland, the research found half of 15-17-year-old girls used sunbeds.

In Wales, 8 per cent of 11-17 year-olds used the devices, including more than one in five girls aged 15-17.

Some 2,000 people die every year from malignant melanoma and it is the most common cancer in young adults aged 15-34, Mrs Morgan said.

"Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is increasing at an alarming rate in the UK.

"Sunbed use, particularly by those under the age of 35, significantly increases the risk of developing skin cancer in later life."

Labour former minister Caroline Flint said some research had warned "young people got addicted to it because as soon as the tan went, they wanted to top it up".

Mrs Morgan said there were "many examples of young people becoming addicted and feeling that they can't manage unless they go continuously ... and it is extremely dangerous".

The Bill has received ministerial backing, but to stand any chance of becoming law it will need to find Parliamentary time before the general election is called.

Mrs Morgan said attempts by the industry to impose voluntary regulation had failed.

But Tory Philip Davies (Shipley) questioned why she had opted for the "nuclear option" of a ban instead a system requiring youngsters to show proof of parental consent before using the machines.

Mr Davies said he was not intending to block the legislation but wanted to raise some concerns that could be ironed out in later stages.

It was important to ensure the measures were "proportionate to the problem", he said, expressing fears over possible "excessive and perverse" consequences and a lack of research on sunbed use.

Mr Davies argued that a system of parental permission would have been a "more appropriate" first stage.

Describing the legislation as "yet another nail in the coffin of parental responsibility", he said he was wary of a culture where parents were told: "It doesn't matter what you do because if you don't do it, we - the state - will do it for you."

He also said public support was a strange argument for Labour MPs to use as justification for the Bill when there were some things - such as the return of capital punishment - which had public support but that the same MPs would "die in a ditch" to oppose.