We have, thankfully, reached the end of this year’s “silly season”; the annual media black hole, when it would seem that just about every journalist with an ounce of credibility abandons their desk for warmer climes. This, of course, leaves the media headlines prone to hijack by, well quite frankly, pretty much anyone who wants to promote an ambiguous, health related message.
Experience shows that the UK’s tanning industry can expect at least one campaigned attack during this period. And, this year turned out to be no exception in terms of effort by the anti-tanning brigade; but thankfully, the 2012 Olympic Games managed to ensure their efforts were consigned to the waste paper bin, which I would suggest was the best place for them.
Having said this, one tanning story did indeed make the headlines, but it was in our favour – I am delighted to tell you about it, particularly as it was an exceptional turnaround for our industry here in the UK!
In the UK, an independent watchdog exists to monitor and advise on the content of all forms of consumer advertising/marketing materials, essentially to ensure they do not mislead the consumer. Although it doesn’t actually have any legislative power, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), does have the support of the advertising industry through self-regulation. As a result, this means that what IT says goes. Although not a weekly occurrence, it is not unusual to see even campaigns from global brands succumb to the might of the ASA with their big-budget advertisements subsequently pulled from our TV screens and radios.
The story that made recent headlines reported on a complaint by the Scottish government to the ASA, claiming that the content of a tanning salon’s leaflets was “irresponsible” as they stated tanning beds were a good source of vitamin D. The ASA duly investigated and as part of this process, The Sunbed Association (TSA) was able to provide compelling evidence of vitamin D synthesis from tanning beds and the ASA subsequently rejected the claim. Historically, complaints of this nature have been upheld by ASA, so the rejection is an excellent indicator that the relationship between UV exposure and vitamin D is definitely getting through in more ways than we appreciated!
Since the end of 2009, when Scotland introduced tanning bed legislation that included the display of a prescribed “Health Warning” poster, salon operators have been concerned and confused on the legal position to promote any known health benefits. In this instance, the salon’s leaflet stated it was fact that UV exposure from tanning beds stimulates vitamin D production.
The ASA rejected the government’s complaints, saying it was widely accepted that UV light was the primary source of vitamin D for UK citizens. This is actually good news in more ways than one, as the Scottish population is known to have one of the highest levels of vitamin D deficiency in Europe and confidence about using tanning beds for vitamin D production could have far reaching benefits.
Good timing too, as following a request by the European Commission, the European Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies recently increased the tolerable level for the daily upper limit for vitamin D supplementation.
As a result, the panel has now raised the upper limit to 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day for adults and teenagers (for this purpose defined as children older than eleven), despite finding no evidence of hypercalcemia or hypercalcuria in supplementation up to 11,000 IU per day, which is often cited as an associated risk with high levels of Vit D supplementation.
In the UK, the relationship between UV exposure & vitamin D is definitely getting through in more ways than we appreciated!
For children between 1-10 years old, the panel proposed an upper limit of 2,000 IU per day and for infants under one year old, the upper limit was set at 1,000 IU per day. These levels greatly exceed the current RDAs in the UK for Vit D, so it will be interesting to see how quickly they are adopted as national guidelines. For interested readers, the full scientific opinion on this can be found online in the European Food Safety Journal at efsa.europa.eu/en/ efsajournal/pub/2813.htm
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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