Despite evidence that indoor tanning beds cause cancer, parents are often the ones who introduce their children to the habit and pay for tanning sessions, a new survey has revealed.
The survey, which involved nearly 1,500 Ontario residents between the ages of 12 and 17, also found that more young people are tanning than before: 8 per cent report using tanning beds, compared to only 5 per cent in 2006. The jump was most significant for teens in Grades 11 and 12, with 16 per cent using tanning beds, up from 7 per cent in 2006.
One-quarter of young tanning-bed users reported that their parents first introduced them to the practice. More than half, or 52 per cent, said they get the money for indoor tanning from their parents.
The findings were released on Thursday, the same day Ontario NDP MPP France Gélinas introduced a private member's bill to create a ban on youth indoor tanning in the province. The Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Medical Association and Canadian Paediatric Society support such restrictions.
In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, declared after a review of evidence that the risk of melanoma increases by 75 per cent when use of tanning beds starts before the age of 30, the agency said.
Since then, Nova Scotia has banned indoor tanning for youth under 19, while British Columbia recently passed a similar law for minors under the age of 18. Other jurisdictions, including California, Australia, Britain and France have similar restrictions in place.
Part of the reason indoor tanning remains popular and supported by some parents could be that many people don't understand the risks.
The Canadian Cancer Society survey found that one in 10 young people believe tanning beds help prevent some forms of cancer. Many tanning companies also actively target young people, offering promotions around events such as proms and graduations. They often promote tanning as a better alternative to tanning outdoors.
The Joint Canadian Tanning Association, an industry group, says indoor tanning should be restricted, but only for young people without parental consent. The group also disputes some conclusions about tanning beds, saying that a person's skin type and the equipment used can result in a lower or higher risk.