Wednesday, 3 July 2013
I urge the Government to introduce legislation regulating the sunbed sector at the earliest opportunity. I am pleased to say the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, has graciously informed me that such legislation will be introduced very shortly. I will be taking a non-controversial stance because I regard myself as a partner with the Government and Ministers on this topic. I will, however, take advantage of the debate to emphasise why it is important to regulate the sector.
The updated figures on the incidence of malignant melanoma in this country are frightening. I have previously quoted figures for this potentially lethal skin cancer. I must stress that most skin cancers are cured by the simple expedient of being recognised at an early stage and removed before they can spread. Of the three major kinds of skin cancer the least common, malignant melanoma, is potentially the most fatal and it also has the greatest potential for secondary spread, dissemination and lethality. The incidence of this cancer doubled between 1998 to 2008, from 400 to 800 cases, and the most recent figures indicate that its incidence has increased to nearly 1,000 since 2008. A bitter fruit is being harvested from the unhealthy habits we have developed in respect of both the real sun and sun beds. Worryingly, the sector is largely unregulated. It is still legal for children under the age of 18 years to partake in sunbed bathing. This activity is recognised as presenting a defined incremental risk in the incidence of malignant melanoma. The figures show that one sunbed session increases an individual's lifetime chance of developing melanoma by 20% compared to someone who never used one. Each additional session during the same year may increase the risk by a further 2% to 3%. The average risk of skin cancer from sunbeds is more than double that of spending the same length of time in the midday Mediterranean sun. People who regularly use high pressure sunlamps may be exposed to as much as 12 times the annual ultraviolet A dose than they would get from sun exposure.
A number of jurisdictions have already introduced legislation to ban sunbed use by those who are under age. These include Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, California, New York, Vermont and Iceland. Brazil has banned all commercial tanning beds. Australia, where the biggest demographic presenting with skin cancer is of Irish extraction, plans to introduce a similar ban from 2014 onwards. New Zealand is also introducing stringent regulations.
Three attempts to have been made to introduce legislation in this area over the years. I laud my colleagues in this House and the Dáil for their efforts in this regard and, without missing any opportunity to launch a save the Seanad campaign, it should be noted that one of these Bills was introduced in the last Seanad by Senators Healy Eames, Cummins, Bradford and Paul Coghlan. Unfortunately, the Bill ran out of steam with the 2011 elections. More recently, a Bill was introduced in the other House by my friend and colleague, Deputy Kelleher, and another Bill was introduced by the now Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan. I am not sure what will happen to Deputy Kelleher's Bill and whether it will be supplanted by other legislation but we must remain committed to putting legislation on the Statute Book at the earliest opportunity. Every year, 28,000 young people use sunbeds, which means 28,000 more young people are being exposed to skin cancer every year we delay legislating.
I would also take this opportunity to ask the Minister of State, separate from the subject matter of this Adjournment debate, to find out what is happening to the Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012, which deals with smoking in cars. It was supposed to be in place to protect children during last year's summer holidays, but that did not happen. I am getting very nervous about whether it will happen in 2013.
I was about to say I do not know whether it is a promotion or a demotion. I thank the Senator for raising this matter and giving me an opportunity to outline to the House the current state of play with regard to the proposed public health legislation governing the use of sunbeds. There has been a growing body of evidence over recent years that the use of sunbeds, especially by children, should be restricted because of the associated increased risk of skin cancer and other health problems. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is an expert body under the World Health Organization, reclassified sunbed use as a group 1 carcinogenic. This higher-risk classification now places sunbed use on a par with cigarette smoking.
The World Health Organization, the Irish Cancer Society, the Environmental Health Officers Association and other bodies have expressed growing concern about the use of sunbeds. The Department of Health has taken these developments fully into account in its consideration of the measures in the proposed legislation. The Department has conducted two public consultations on the matter and has met a number of interested parties, including the Sunbed Association of Ireland, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, the Health Service Executive, the National Consumer Agency, the National Standards Authority of Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society. The Department has also consulted the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, which has responsibility for safety matters relating to sunbeds and other types of tanning equipment.
The Government has approved the drafting of legislation. I can confirm that the Bill has been accorded priority status in the Office of the Attorney General. Officials from the Department are working closely with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to complete the drafting of this important public health legislation. The Minister's key priority in the legislation is to prohibit people under the age of 18 from using sunbeds on a sunbed premises and from purchasing or hiring sunbeds. The Bill will also set out a comprehensive range of measures to promote greater public awareness across all age groups of the dangers of skin cancer, premature ageing and eye damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The Bill will require those involved in this sector to supervise sunbed use, issue notifications to the HSE, train staff, provide protective eyewear to sunbed users and display warning signs. Sunbed businesses will be required to provide comprehensive information setting out the health risks associated with sunbed use to anyone over the age of 18 who is considering sunbed use. Those who choose to use sunbeds despite the risks involved will be required to sign a form indicating they have been made fully aware of the potential dangers of sunbed use. In addition, there will be a prohibition on certain promotional and marketing practices. Comprehensive enforcement provisions will also be included in the Bill.
The drafting of the public health (sunbeds) Bill will be finalised in the next six to eight weeks. Thereafter, the legislation must be notified to the EU Commission under the EU transparency directive prior to its publication and introduction in the Oireachtas. This EU notification requirement will take a minimum of three months to complete. I hope my reply has been of some help to the Senator. I will inquiries about the Protection of Children's Health from Tobacco Smoke Bill 2012.
I thank the Minister of State. I am tremendously grateful for the effort that has been made in this regard by the Minister and the Ministers of State and their officials in the Department of Health. We will raise the question again in approximately three months' time to see what the status of the legislation is at that stage.