Liberals ban teen tanning
The B.C. government announced Monday legislation that bans youths under 18 from using tanning beds, and a young Merritt woman played a role in lobbying the Liberals to prohibit the ultraviolet rays.
Nineteen-year-old Taylor Smith was front-and-centre in the fight to force the government to do their part in reducing the chances of developing skin cancer — which increases by 75 per cent among people using a tanning bed before age 35, according to the World Health Organization.
Smith wanted to take on the task to potentially save the lives of the many youths who would otherwise use tanning beds.
“Just by using statistics and facts like that, it’s not hard to raise awareness about this,” she said. “I think this campaign definitely made an impact.”
Smith was honoured for her efforts with a Youth Achievement Award from the Canadian Cancer Society in Trail, B.C., on Sept. 22. Three youths in the southern Interior received awards.
As a volunteer for the BC Cancer Society, which she started in September last year, Smith was responsible for encouraging girls in high school to refrain from tanning before graduation.
“I trained Grade 12 students in Merritt and gave them information about all the risks of indoor tanning and then they passed it on to their peers,” she explained.
She managed to encourage 75 per cent of female Merritt Secondary School graduating students to pledge their commitment stay away from the beds.
Prize incentives were given to local students to encourage them not to tan, she added.
“I basically told them about the risks of it, like the risk of getting melanoma.”
Smith is now studying for her bachelor of science with a major in biochemistry at UBC Okanagan.
Her mother, Elaine, said her daughter has also helped with the Merritt Relay for Life and other charities.
“Basically, she doesn’t like to have free time,” she said. “She was really involved with this campaign and so many others.”
The government ban took effect on Monday, and also includes a requirement for tanning operators to post a sign at their business informing the public of the ban.
Businesses caught without the sign are fined $345 for each offence.
Minister of Health Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid said the province is committed to “fighting the battle against cancer in all its forms.”
As a Stage 4 melanoma survivor, Kathleen Barnard from the Save Your Skin Foundation knows first-hand the terrifying results of tanning as a youth.
“I am living proof of the dangers of tanning as a young person. There are not many of us still alive.”
She said the regulation is needed and efforts such as this could help save hundreds of families from “being ripped apart by this disease.”
After the Capital Regional District created a 2011 bylaw prohibiting the use of tanning beds among youths younger than 18, the B.C. government received a slew of requests to ban youth tanning throughout the province, including one from the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
Young people who have a prescription for a condition such as psoriasis are still allowed to receive treatment from the beds.
The B.C. Cancer Agency estimated that in 2012 966 B.C. residents will be diagnosed with melanoma and 150 will die from the cancer.
One in 56 males and one in 69 females are expected to develop melanoma sometime in their lifetime.