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Alberta to introduce tanning bed legislation

Alberta to introduce tanning bed legislation A tanning bed is seen in North Vancouver, March, 20, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

EDMONTON - Alberta is preparing tanning equipment legislation to be introduced this year that aims to help protect young people from skin cancer.

But it is not clear if the bill will ban people under 18 from using tanning beds — equipment that the World Health Organization has linked to cancer, including deadly melanoma.

Health Minister Fred Horne said the legislation is being developed and could be introduced this spring or in the fall. The final contents of the bill will depend on the political process.

"They will see it this year," Horne said. "We are obviously looking at that (a ban) as a key option and I will be taking it through our decision making process in government as fast as I can."

Except for Saskatchewan and Manitoba, all the other provinces ban young people from using indoor tanning equipment.

Saskatchewan leaves it up to individuals to decide what is best for them. Just last week it ruled out introducing a ban despite a presentation from the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Dermatology Association about the health dangers.

Manitoba allows people under 18 to indoor tan if they have permission from a parent.

The Canadian Cancer Society said it fears Alberta may follow Manitoba's lead and introduce parental consent-type legislation.

"Our issue with parental consent is that it doesn't work. It is not shown to be an effective way to reduce a minor's use of tanning equipment," said Evie Eshpeter, a policy analyst with the society.

"Fundamentally, it is wrong to give a parent permission to expose their child to a known carcinogen."

The cancer society says there is published medical proof that young people who use tanning equipment are at much greater risk of developing melanoma in later life.

Eshpeter said the society will release updated skin cancer information for Alberta in May with a special focus on melanoma in the hope of creating more buzz about the health dangers of indoor tanning.

The society has also just launched a website (takeaction.cancer.ca/#/main_page/Alberta), where Albertans can send a message about youth tanning bed use to Horne and their member of the legislature.

"Unfortunately skin cancer is rising at an alarming rate in Canada, with indoor tanning facilities serving as an increasingly frequent source of UV radiation," reads the website.

"Take action! Challenge your MLA and Health Minister Fred Horne to act quickly and adopt policy measures that will protect youth and help reduce skin cancer rates in Alberta."

The Canadian Dermatology Association notes that the World Health Organization classifies tanning equipment as carcinogenic to humans — in the same category as tobacco, arsenic and plutonium.

The Alberta government has recently taken steps to protect children and young people from getting cancer.

Last year the province passed legislation against flavoured tobacco products and second-hand tobacco smoke in vehicles when children are inside. It also announced it will include boys in its HPV vaccine program that helps prevent cancer-causing Human papillomavirus.

Horne said indoor tanning is clearly dangerous to young people, but the decision on whether the legislation will include a ban is not up to just him.

"The evidence speaks for itself. Exposure to tanning can lead to skin cancer and does in many instances and that is a preventable cancer," he said.

"I am in favour of whatever measure is going to provide the most protection. But until we have the discussion internally within government, I am not really able to say exactly what it will look like."

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