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UVic students champion ban on teens using tanning beds in Greater Victoria

Saturday, October 2, 2010
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Both sides of the region’s proposed tanning bed bylaw have different views on how to regulate the industry.

But what both sides agree on is that all sides, including the teens at the centre of the regulation, were represented at the recent series of public hearings.

While many high school grads spend their summers focused on work or travel, teenagers Stephanie Wong and Adele Green planned how they would support the proposed ban on tanning bed use for people under the age of 18. The Capital Regional District held four public hearings throughout September. Leading up to those, the former champions of Oak Bay High’s Youth Against Cancer club worked with the B.C. Cancer Agency to prepare their message.

“I was motivated to represent the youth as a whole, because it is only going to be affecting people under the age of 18,” said Wong, who first became interested in cancer prevention after losing her grandmother to the disease.

“I want this bylaw to be passed, because, if tanning is something that causes cancer, putting it to an end will bring us one step closer to a cancer-free world.”

Wong and Green, now in their first years at the University of Victoria, are founding a UVic Youth Against Cancer club. In the meantime, they wait for the CRD’s verdict on the bylaw. If the November vote passes, youth must produce identification at a tanning salon prior to accessing the service — much like purchasing cigarettes or alcohol.

“Tanning’s definitely peer-influenced,” Green said, recounting how a group of friends tanned in preparation for their high school grad. She hopes the negative press tanning has received over the last months will make her peers take note and choose to protect their skin.

Steven Gilroy, executive director of the Joint Canadian Tanning Association (representing more than half of the tanning salons in Greater Victoria), was one of the 200 people at the meetings with Green and Wong.

Gilroy worries the stigma caused by the media coverage will eclipse the full scope of studies into commercial tanning beds.

“The research shows that we don’t need a ban, we need parental consent based on skin-typing, because (lighter skin types) are the ones at risk,” he said, suggesting that healthcare costs will increase to the public once young patients can no longer access beds for medical reasons.

Gilroy, who travelled from Kelowna to attend all four hearings, says the tanning association wasn’t adequately consulted and is fighting for a voice in deciding the future of its industry.

If the CRD implements the ban, Wong and Green say there’s still plenty of work left to be done. They’d like to see a total ban on tanning beds, regardless of age.

“I feel like they’re more for self-beautification and, although they have been used to treat eczema and seasonal affective disorder, there are so many other ways that you can treat those things,” Wong said. “The sun is vital to our survival, but tanning beds definitely are not.”