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Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer] Home was the most common place where sunbeds were used. The percentages were 35% in the home and 28% a combination of beauty salon and the home. The author of the report said this is worrying as sunbeds in the home are unsupervised with no control on the length of time they are being used in terms frequency of use and on wearing eye protection. Only 37% of sunbeds users received advice from a member of staff when using the equipment in the salon and one third occasionally did not use eye protection, which is a worrying trend on top of what we have heard already.

The key findings around attitudes in this group were that 62% felt a tan made them look healthy, 68% said a tan made them look and feel more confident, 85% said they considered sunbeds to be harmful and 87% said they agreed that sunbeds can cause skin cancer. The relationship between sunbed use and beliefs shows that the issue should be tackled by Government. Sunbed users seem to be more tolerant of sunbeds and they see them in a more positive light than those of us who do not use them. A point which should be made is that non-users seem to be more aware and better informed of the negative effects and consequences of repeated sunbed use.

To go back to the survey, when asked if sunbeds should be used to get freckles, 43% said that they were unsure. People who get freckles are recommended never to use sunbeds. The author of the report recommended that legislation should be backed up by education on sunbed usage - that is, in schools, whether through social, political and health education, and in a media campaign for children and adults along with a public health campaign in this area.

It is appropriate that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children dealt with plan packaging for cigarettes and the use of tobacco today. We heard the tobacco industry say it never targeted young people and that it was not interested in doing so. Those involved in operating sunbeds would probably make the same claim. However, we cannot dispute or ignore the fact there is a clear link between using sunbeds and melanoma and skin cancer. That is why I am particularly pleased this legislation has come before the House ahead of the summer season - a time when many are getting ready to go on holiday. This legislation is about protecting young people, in particular, by regulating the use of sunbeds. One would think it would be a given that people would not use sunbeds but unfortunately that is not the case.

In its briefing document, the Irish Cancer Society gave a very striking statistic that people who start to use sunbeds before the age of 30 have a 75% increased risk of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. That figure cannot be ignored or downplayed. Buy-in is required from sunbed operators who need to be brought along on this journey. The Irish Cancer Society said seven out of ten tanning shops would allow a fair skinned child to use a sunbed without any warning or advice. How can that be justified?

I welcome this important legislation which will perhaps not get much prominence in the national media and may go unnoticed but it will send a very strong message that this Government is concerned about public health. The Bill will afford protection to all citizens. We need to have an efficient and effective enforcement regime. That is why clarity is required in regard to enforcement. The Minister said the HSE will establish a list of sunbed businesses and the Bill will include a notification system where those operating sunbeds, whether the seller or the hirer, will have to notify the HSE and that there will be a notification fee involved. That is welcome but follow up is required in terms of enforcement of the legislation and training for staff in salons. Is the fine of €4,000 for a first offence - a class B fine - sufficient? We are talking about the lives of people and about public health in respect of a group of people who use sunbeds. The Minister spoke about a sunbed non-compliance list which would be a bit like the Revenue Commissioner's list of those who have not paid their taxes.

This is a first step which is about protecting children from the harmful effects of sunbeds and ensuring adults make informed choices. I welcome the Bill and hope it will pass and that we will see further public health measures around the area of cancer.

Deputy John Browne: Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne I welcome the Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013, which probably should have been implemented many moons ago. I certainly hope the Minister accepts amendments on Committee Stage to strengthen the Bill and takes on board some proposals from the Irish Cancer Society and other people who deal with cancer on a daily basis.

This Bill stems from the growing evidence that the use of sunbeds, especially by children, should be restricted because of the associated increased risk of skin cancer and other health problems. As has been outlined, the Bill will prohibit operators of sunbed premises from allowing anyone under 18 years of age to use sunbeds. It provides for controls on the remote sale or hire of sunbeds by way of Internet transactions and it imposes a requirement that sunbed operators provide training for staff which is very important because in my county - I am sure it is the same in other counties - there are coin-operated and unmanned sunbeds and the need for staff who are trained to advise people on the use of sunbeds is irrelevant. This aspect must be included in the Bill.

The Bill proposes an enforcement regime to enable inspections to be carried out by the HSE and to impose penalties for non-compliance, including fixed payment notice. Perhaps the Minister might explain how the HSE will carry out these inspections. Would it not have been better to have had HIQA carry out the inspections rather than the HSE which does not seem to have the manpower or ability to do so?

All sunbed operators will be obliged to provide protective eye wear and ensure sunbeds are maintained in a clean and hygienic condition. Many operators run their premises to a high standard but there are people involved in this business who leave a lot to be desired. There will be a requirement for warning signs to be displayed in all sunbed premises, which is very important in terms of advising and warning people on the implications of using sunbeds.

The Irish Cancer Society sent us a briefing document which spells out starkly the implications for people who have been diagnosed with cancer. It is also traumatic for the families, where an individual is suffering from cancer. The society points out that skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland. In 2010, some 9,500 people were diagnosed with skin cancer and almost 10% were diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

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