Sunbed leaflet complaint rejected by advertising watchdog

woman on sunbed A tanning centre's leaflets made claims about vitamin D

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Complaints by the Scottish government that a company's sunbed centre leaflets were misleading have been rejected by the advertising watchdog.

Ministers said the Indigo Sun tanning centre's claim that sunbeds were a good source of vitamin D was irresponsible.

Indigo Sun said it was fact that UV exposure from sunbeds stimulated vitamin D production.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the company's claim was a "general one".

It added that Indigo Sun did not go into detail about the risks of over-exposure to UV, "from either sunlight or sunbeds".

But the government insisted the leaflet and contradicted the World Health Organisation's advice on the use of sunbeds as a source of vitamin D.

Indigo Sun said it had not recommended the exclusive use of sunbeds as a source of UV and the leaflet had health warnings which included:

  • Customers should be aged 18 years or over
  • That people with fair skin or moles should avoid exposure
  • That all customers should avoid over-exposure and wear eye protection

The company went on to offer sunbed sessions within a limited time and ran a series of "fact versus fiction" questions surrounding their use.

Rejecting the government's complaints, the ASA said it was widely accepted that UV light was the primary source of vitamin D for UK citizens.

Skin types

It added: "We noted that the claim was a general one regarding the importance of UV as a source of vitamin D and that it did not go into detail about the risks of over-exposure to UV, from either sunlight or sunbeds.

"We noted that the leaflet contained warnings regarding over-exposure, the need for eye protection and the need for people with certain skin types to avoid exposure to UV completely.

"We did not therefore consider that readers would infer from the claim that there were no health risks associated with exposure to UV from sunbeds, or that sunbeds were any safer than sunlight."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "While we accept the judgement of the ASA, we remain of the view that the advertising by Indigo Sun is inappropriate and misleading as it runs contrary to World Health Organisation (WHO) advice.

"WHO advises that incidental exposure to the sun, combined with normal dietary intake of vitamin D, provides adequate vitamin D for a healthy body throughout the year.

"There is no evidence to suggest that UV light from sunbeds is the most importance source of vitamin D for people in the UK - in fact, using sunbeds for the first time before the age of 35 increases the risk of developing melanoma skin cancer by 75%."

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