In the UK and throughout most of Europe, the anti-tanning lobby has created a heat wave of confusion about UV exposure. A situation you are, unfortunately, equally exposed to in the U.S. As part of the process, tanning beds became an easy commercial target, lambasted as the major culprit in the alleged increase of skin cancer incidence (I say “alleged” as now’s not the time to suggest whether skin cancer incidences have actually risen due to increased awareness from publicity campaigns coupled with the re-classification of benign skin lesions as skin “cancers”).
But in Europe, we have a real opportunity to fight back under a safety standard colloquially known as “0.3”. I say fight back, when actually 0.3 presents an opportunity for harmonisation between the various anti-tanning factions and the indoor tanning industry. We’ve tried and, no doubt, you won’t be surprised to learn that this simply isn’t going to happen, not in a month of Sundays!
As such, I can only conclude that the intentions of the anti-tanning brigade are somewhat disingenuous when they simply ignore or won’t support efforts to have 0.3 introduced across the board which would ensure “safer” tanning bed sessions for all users.
As with most EU legislation, it is down to the local country, in our case the UK, to ensure compliance. As an industry, we lobbied hard to have 0.3 introduced into recent tanning bed legislation but were blocked at every turn for reasons I still find frustrating. Bottom line, it would have delayed the process and there was a time issue to secure the ban on usage by under-18s, which was the focus for the legislation.
So, what difference can 0.3 make? In a nutshell, the maximum irradiance level of 0.3W/m2 effectively ensures the UV output of a tanning bed is comparable to that of the mid-day Mediterranean sun. Emissions over this level throughout Europe are now deemed “unsafe”.
Since April 2009, when 0.3 came into effect, there had been a very slow, almost non-existent sign of activity from the regulatory bodies and enforcement agencies responsible for ensuring compliance in the UK. Salons keen to operate to best practice, i.e. members of The Sunbed Association, had to take a leap of faith converting their tanning beds to be 0.3 compliant. It meant customers had to take longer to get their tan (a 0.3 session takes longer, generating a tan that lasts longer), so compliant operators really had to be switched on to marketing the advantages of compliance to retain customers seeking a quick tan.
Equally, there were some unscrupulous or, let’s be kind and say misinformed operators, who simply put “0.3” lamps in their beds and marketed their beds as compliant, when this simply wasn’t the case. Filters, lamps, ballasts and embedded software all play a part in making the bed 0.3 compliant.
Yet now, those who took the correct route to compliance are clearly seeing the benefits over their “non-compliant” competitors. They had the opportunity to plan in the “compliance changeover”, briefing and training staff, informing customers and marketing the benefits in a proactive manner. For those operators who resisted compliance – even with the knowledge they could potentially end up in court, invalidate their insurance and be fined huge amounts – deferring the switchover is proving to have been short-sighted.
Since January this year, we have seen a surge of local authorities implementing 0.3 in their areas, giving operators just a matter of weeks to get on track.
Although it feels intuitive to fight any legislation, compliance with this emission Standard has to be good for our industry. Everyone operating on a level playing field and everyone offering their customers “safe” tanning – the anti-tanning protagonists won’t like it, which is no doubt why they haven’t supported our efforts.
“UV exposure on a tanning bed is equivalent to 15 times that of the Mediterranean mid-day sun” was one of their commonly used mantras – well, not anymore!
In the tanning industry since 1982, Gary is Managing Director of the UK subsidiary of Ergoline, and runs Ergoline Plus, the exclusive distributor for a wide range of sunless products and spray systems. He is also Chairman of the Media Committee for the UK’s Sunbed Association & a European Sunlight Association member.
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