Public Health (Sunbeds) Bill 2013- 14th February, 2014

I welcome the move to professionalise further the sale and hire of sunbeds. I commend the Government, specifically the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, and the Minister of State, Deputy White, on their efforts to ensure the members of the public who avail of these services not only use them in a safe environment under professional supervision but understand the dangers associated with their use as well.
Most people in Ireland are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from daily exposure to the sun. However, some people expose themselves to high doses artificially through the use of sunbeds and sunlamps. For many, this type of exposure is a deliberate lifestyle choice, often made without prior knowledge of the serious risks it carries. In 2006, a review by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Products concluded that there is strong evidence to suggest exposure to sunbeds increases the risk of cancer of the eye, also known as ocular melanoma. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified sunbed use as a known carcinogenic closely linked to the development of skin cancer.
In the same year, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer conducted a review which highlighted that sunbed users aged under 30 were at a 75% higher risk of developing skin cancer. It is even more concerning that using a sunbed without ever burning appears to be no safer. That can increase the risk of malignant melanoma and early onset BCC diagnosed in people aged under 40 by more than 60%, according to the Yale School of Public Health.
The operators of these services are not obliged to provide adequate eye care to their customers nor are they obliged to inform the customer of the potential dangers that may arise due to the use of these services. This is a cause of concern and it is one of the main reasons I am relieved that this legislation is finally going through the House. Sections 6, 7 and 15 address these concerns by ensuring not only will customers be provided with approved eye protection but there will also be an obligation on the owner or employee to ensure the customer receives the correct information and is fully informed. Section 6 ensures people can only use beds under supervision while section 8 ensures proper hygiene. The legislation also ensures there will be no offer of free use as an attractive carrot and no promise of health benefits, which would be bizarre.
Section 14 provides that the Minister shall prescribe training leading to a qualification in the safe use of sunbeds to be recognised under the National Framework of Qualifications. This will ensure qualified persons are available to operate and maintain these services safely and to also act as a point of information regarding concerns customers may have. In light of the fact that in my own constituency Cavan Institute of Further Studies runs a wide range of excellent beauty therapy courses, will the Minister indicate the timeframe for the introduction of these training courses? My local college, along with other PLCs, would be excellent venues for the provision of such courses.
Section 13 provides for the introduction of fees to cover investigation costs and costs associated with the enforcement of the Act. A list of non-compliant businesses will be maintained. All the evidence suggests something needs to be done in this regard. It is bizarre that youngsters aged under 18 can use these facilities and I am delighted the legislation bans them from doing so and ensures they will have to furnish identification if there is a doubt about their age. Under 18s will also be prevented from hiring or buying sunbeds. Nothing exemplified more the tragic way our society evolved during the Celtic tiger years than youngsters using sunbeds prior to making their first communion or confirmation. It was a travesty and it is great that the legislation will prevent this happening in future.
I welcome this Bill as part of a suite of legislation that will create a healthier Ireland. Legislation to ban tobacco and introduce plain packaging for tobacco products and to ensure the moderate use of alcohol are on the way. We need to adopt a new attitude culturally to the use of alcohol. It is important that we not only order society from an economic perspective and get our people working but that we also create the proper health conditions to ensure a better quality of life for people and a healthier society. This is a significant step in that direction.

Senator Joe O'Reilly representing Cavan & Monaghan 2010. | An ExSite website