EDMONTON — The Canadian Cancer Society is urging the Alberta government to finally enact legislation to ban young people from using indoor tanning beds.
The Skin Cancer Prevention (Artificial Tanning) Act was passed by the legislature in March 2015, but has not been put into force.
Evie Eshpeter, a society spokeswoman, said the two-year delay is putting young people at risk of developing skin cancer, including potentially deadly melanoma.
“We are asking them to enact the Skin Cancer Prevention Act without further delay,” Eshpeter said in an interview.
“The longer it remains unproclaimed the longer we deny protection to Alberta kids and we put them at unnecessary risk.”
Premier Rachel Notley said her government has been busy dealing with other matters, but will take action soon.
“We understand that there is as important public safety issue there, and so we will be moving forward on it fairly quickly,” she said Tuesday.
The society outlined its concerns to Health Minister Sarah Hoffman in a letter on March 6.
Hoffman told The Canadian Press the province is continuing to consult with businesses and health advocacy groups on the proposed regulations.
“It’s important that we get this right and that the final regulatory framework supports our goal to protect youth and help all Albertans make informed decisions about the health risks of ultraviolet artificial tanning,” Hoffman wrote in an email.
Alberta is the only province that still allows people under the age of 18 to use indoor tanning equipment.
Eshpeter said Alberta’s failure to enact the legislation is puzzling.
The NDP supported the legislation when it was introduced by the Progressive Conservatives.
Notley spoke out in 2014 on the need to protect young people from the effects of exposure to artificial ultraviolet rays in a response to a survey question put out by the society.
Question: Will you support legislation that prohibits minors from using indoor tanning equipment?
Notley: “Yes. Given the high rates of skin cancer and the alarming trend of its increase, it is time that Alberta had legislation that works to mitigate it,” she wrote.
“As a society we have a responsibility to protect youth from preventable risks that could have deadly consequences. The majority of Canada’s provinces have prohibited minors from using indoor tanning and I believe that Alberta’s minors deserve this same.”
Melanoma is one of the fastest-growing preventable cancers and research indicates that using indoor tanning equipment during youth increases the risk of melanoma by nearly 60 per cent.
The society estimates that one-third of 17-year-old girls have used tanning beds.
Becky Lynn, a melanoma survivor and mother of three young girls, was diagnosed with skin cancer at the age of 26 after many years of using tanning beds.
Lynn, 49, said she can’t fathom why the NDP government has not taken action on the legislation.
“It is quite disappointing that two years later we still have not enacted the law,” she said.
She wonders about all the young people over the past two years who have used tanning beds to get ready for the prom or to get a base tan before going on vacation.
“Their risk of getting melanoma is exponentially higher by going to tanning beds even a small number of times,” she said.
“Let’s move on it. Let’s join the other provinces. Let’s get it done.”
John Cotter, The Canadian Press