Tanning bylaw curtails parental rights

"I think it's ridiculous on a business and a personal level," said Andrea Sinclair, owner of Sunshine Tanning on Shelbourne Street. "Even if their parents want them to come in for their issues, they can't, and I think that it's a parent's right to choose."

Tanning salon owners are speaking out against a bylaw that will curtail the rights of parents in Greater Victoria.

The Capital Regional District board is expected to give final reading to its tanning regulation bylaw on Wednesday (Oct. 12). It would keep anyone under age 18 out of tanning beds, unless they have a doctor’s note.

“I think it’s ridiculous on a business and a personal level,” said Andrea Sinclair, owner of Sunshine Tanning on Shelbourne Street. “Even if their parents want them to come in for their issues, they can’t, and I think that it’s a parent’s right to choose.”

The bylaw was proposed by the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, who agrees with the World Health Organization’s finding that UV radiation contributes to the development of skin cancer, cataracts and other eye conditions.

According to Health Canada, tanning beds pump out five times the amount of UV-A radiation the sun creates.

While salons in the Capital Region say they will abide by the new rules, if they’re passed, many don’t believe the regulations are the best answer to health concerns.

“We are not for this bylaw as it is currently written, as it does nothing to protect or educate the general public, regardless of age,” said Angie Woodhead, co-owner of Cabana Tan and a member of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association. “The most recent studies have shown that skin type, dosage and genetics play the biggest part in increasing risk, not age.

“The CRD’s jurisdiction does not allow them to create a bylaw requiring mandatory professional liability insurance, operator training or mandatory skin typing, all of which would increase the safety of indoor tanning for the public.”

Other salon owners, such as Monica Barrington-Foote of Brun Body Bar downtown, said the regulations are necessary because “it’s hard for somebody under age 18 to (have the discipline needed) for tanning in moderation.” She added safer options, such as spray tanning, exist.

Sinclair added parents are helping protect their children from sunburns before holidays, for example, by allowing their children to get a base tan from beds before being exposed to intense sunlight in hot countries.

“They’re our children, we are parents,” Sinclair said. “It’s just getting ridiculous. If I want to tan my children before I go to Mexico, I should be able to.”

But Stanwick said at a previous CRD meeting young people’s skin should be protected from tanning beds.

“By tanning in tanning salons, the exposure starts early in life and they’re gaining an early start on the path to cumulative skin damage,” Stanwick said in January. “When children are growing, their cells are dividing and scientists will tell you that that’s the worst time to have DNA exposed to any kind of radiation, especially UV radiation.”

Once the bylaw is approved, the CRD will spend approximately one year educating salon staff on the regulations before enforcing violations, which could bring fines between $250 and $2,000, said Andy Orr, senior manager of communications for the CRD.

ecardone@vicnews.com

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