News item

Trading standards find underage still access sunbeds

sunbedWest Yorkshire Trading Standards, Environmental Health and the Health Protection Agency ran a week long project to assess whether sun beds shops are allowing children under the age of 18 to use UV sun beds in October.

Since April this year it has been illegal for sun bed businesses to offer UV sun beds  to children under the age of 18.   Businesses failing to comply with this could face fines of up to £20,000.  The legislation has been developed by the Department of Health, Local Government Regulation, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the Health and Safety Executive and the Welsh Assemby Government.   It is enforced by local authority Environmental Health officers.

Prior to the legislation coming in to force, there was no age restriction on the use of sun beds.   The main concern in relation to sun bed use is the link of ultraviolet (UV) rays to prevalence of skin cancer.
Test purchases were carried out from 24 – 28th October in 25 premises throughout West Yorkshire (5 in each district) using a 14 year old female test purchaser.   The number of sales made to the underage child are as follows:

District  Test purchases attempted Sales made
Leeds          5                                             2
Wakefield    5                                            4
Kirklees       5                                             2
Calderdale  5                                             1
Bradford      5                                             2

The overall sales rate was 44% which compares unfavorably  with other age restricted items such as tobacco and alcohol where traditionally 15% of retailers will sell cigarettes, or tobacco to children.  
Of those sun bed premises that sold, most required the underage child to fill out a form. This was filled out fully with the true date of birth of the 14 year old. However, this was not checked by the business operators and the test purchaser was offered the use of a sun bed illegally.

Very few asked the test purchaser to produce identification to prove their age. West Yorkshire Trading Standards would always advise businesses to operate an age verification policy. This could include the use of a ‘Challenge 21’ Policy. In all instances where there is any doubt of the age of the child, photographic identification should be asked for in the form of a driving licence, passport or a PASS approved card. If this is not seen, the child should be refused access to a  sun bed.
One premises was an un-manned business, relying solely on watching CCTV cameras covering the sun bed area to vet the customers ages. This was not being watched at the time of the visit by the test purchaser, and therefore a sale was made.

Louise Marshall, Environmental Health Officer currently on secondment to the Health Protection Agency said:‘The relatively high positive test purchase rate achieved in relation to sun beds is of concern. However, as part of the intervention it is now hoped that sun bed studio operators will have a greater understanding of their responsibilities under the legislation. This in turn will lead to them being more vigilant in checking the ages of youngsters who may be under the age of 18, and where necessary refusing them access to their sun bed facilities’.  
Andrew  Furber, Director of Public Health for Wakefield said “The increasing numbers of young people using sun beds on a regular basis is extremely worrying. Skin damage and skin cancer are both linked to over exposure to UV radiation through sun beds, so regular use is putting people at risk. Stricter processes need to be in place to make sure people using sun beds are over 18 and able to make an informed choice.”
The full Act can be found on Guidance on the implementation of the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010 is available on the Department of Health website
Or alternatively businesses wanting advice regarding the law in this area can contact their local council’s environmental health department.
Contact details:
David Strover  - West Yorkshire Trading Standards 0113 3939902
Louise Marshall -  Health Protection Agency  0113 284 0596