Under-18 sunbed ban in Scotland

Man on sunbed
Unmanned coin-operated tanning salons are also being banned

Under-18s in Scotland are now banned from using sunbeds, while unmanned coin-operated salons there are also being forced to shut down.

Campaigners are calling for a similar ban across the rest of the UK over fearsthe sunbeds increase the risk of getting cancer.

Glasgow has been described as Britain's sunbed capital because of the number of salons there and the number of people who use them.

Have Your Say: Do you agree with Scotland's under-18 sunbed ban

Many teenagers are among the users who routinely top up their tans in this way.

Charmaine who is 16 is one of them. She visits salons twice a week spending as long as 12 minutes on the beds at a time.

Charmaine described the changes as "rubbish". She added: "I use them sometimes because it makes you feel better and look better."

Regular routine

But 30-year-old Caroline Gillings, also from Glasgow, says the new law couldn't have come soon enough.

At the age of 26 Caroline discovered a mole on her back. After tests she found out she had skin cancer but following treatment she is now fine.

Her doctors believed her regular trips to the tanning shop with many hours under the sunbed were one of the reasons she contracted skin cancer.

As a teenager, visiting the salon was part of a regular routine. "You just associated it with getting ready," she explained. "Almost as a part of a ritual of going on a night out or going on holiday.

"You didn't really think about it as something you might be damaging your skin with."

Caroline began going a few times a week, but her addiction to tanning salons grew.

"I'd say if I had a night out, I'd probably go on two or three times a week," she said.

She admits being addicted to tanning when she was 17 and 18.

For Caroline it was the pictures of celebrities and the constant messages that tanned skin looks good that drove her to crave sunbeds.

She said: "Everyone always comments when you've got a tan, 'Oh you look really nice and healthy', so I think you have that in your head.

"I just don't think you thought about the consequences of what could happen."

'Dangerous'

Cancer Research claims that using a sunbed before the age of 35 increases the risk of cancer by as much as 75%.

The World Health Organisation warns that going on a sunbed is as dangerous as drinking or smoking.

The ban on under-18s using sunbeds also extends to a total ban on all unmanned salons, usually the coin-operated type where only CCTV cameras monitor who is coming and going.

Kirsty McRae, 19, from Barry
Kirsty McRae, 19, from Barry suffered first degree burns in a tanning salon

Salon operators who flout any of these new rules could be fined.

Sitting at the front of the Cruz tanning salon in Partick is Helen. Surrounded by cabinets full of tanning lotions, her job is to monitor who comes and uses the coin-operated sunbeds in the shop.

She welcomes the changes. "If they've got proof (of age) they can come in," she said. "If they haven't then I'm sorry, but they're not getting in."

Uttering the words of a nightclub bouncer, only in a much warmer manner, Helen explains why she is in favour of the stricter laws.

"If they start too early they're going to damage their skin. They're going to turn to leather," she said.

"You can't vote until you're 18 so why should you use your body with sunbeds."

Helen is hoping that the law will encourage more teenagers to get a spray tan instead.

As part of the new law, Helen's shop and all other tanning salons will be required to put up posters warning customers of the dangers of excessive sunbed use.

While some might argue that a message on a poster makes little difference, Caroline believes it might have for her.

"It might have made me think twice," she explained. "The posters were all healthy people with suntans looking nice on holiday. You just assumed it was a safe thing to do.

"So I think if there'd been a bit more information about it, I might have thought a bit more about it and I might have not got the skin cancer."

Educating people about the dangers of sunbeds is an issue close to Caroline's heart. Her message to any teenagers wanting to top up their tans on a sunbed is stark.

"A tan doesn't last," she warned. "It fades but the scars I have on my body from having the mole removed are for life."