Sunbed firms flouting laws

A third of shops were prepared to allow under-18s on sunbeds.
A third of shops were prepared to allow under-18s on sunbeds.

A shocking number of Blackpool businesses are flouting the law and letting young teenagers use their sunbeds.

Council inspectors found a third of shops were prepared to allow an under-18 on to their sunbeds – and they have been slammed for risking youngster’s health.

NHS Blackpool and Blackpool Council joined forces to send a 15-year-old girl around local sunbed shops, and 11 of the 33 visited were prepared to let the youngsters use their facilities.

Coun Gary Coleman, the councillor responsible for quality standards, branded the results “worrying”, but one local sunbed owner said he was not surprised by the statistics.

Mark Courtney-Massey’s shop Spartan Sunbeds, on Dickson Road, passed the council’s test and he said: “I’m not surprised in today’s climate because sunbed businesses are struggling anyway. If someone wants to make money they aren’t going to, they will be lucky if they can pay the bills so I can see why businesses are just going to let anybody on. They are not fussy.

“I’m fortunate, I don’t need the money so I’m fussy. It’s the 16 to 18 age group that’s a problem because they are very keen but the nice thing is what’s happened lately is they all come in with ID so it’s made it a lot easier.”

Mr Courtney-Massey added that many shops fail to train their staff properly, meaning staff are unable to advise customers and sometimes aren’t even aware what wattage the bulbs in the sunbeds are.

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All the businesses which failed the test purchase are now set to be hauled before the council for a meeting.

Using sunbeds, particularly before the age of 35, can increase the risk of developing skin cancer and sunbed legislation was introduced in April this year to stop under-18s having access to them.

Coun Coleman added: “These results are very worrying and it’s clearly an area that requires further test purchasing operations. All the 11 premises which failed the test have all been asked to attend a meeting with our enforcement team where advice has been given. However, this is not an issue we are taking lightly and any further test fails will see the businesses prosecuted.

“As Christmas approaches we know tanning salons will be busier than normal and we want to ensure they’re operating within the law.”

Surveys by Cancer Research in 2008 and 2009 showed six per cent of 11 to 17 year-olds had used a sunbed.

The World Health Organisation recommends high risk people should avoid sunbeds, including those who have fair or freckly skin, burn easily, have a lot of moles, have had skin cancer in the past or are using medication which increases sensitivity to UV.

For information visit www.sunsmart.org.uk.