Action on sunbeds


There is strong scientific evidence of the link between skin cancer and sunbed use. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified sunbeds as ‘carcinogenic’ to humans, placing it in the same category as plutonium and tobacco.

An IPSOS MRBI poll commissioned by the Irish Cancer Society in July 2017, shows that 150,000 Irish people have used a sunbed in the last year, with 36,000 of them using a sunbed once a week.

What is more worrying is that this survey showed an increase in young peoples’ use of sunbeds, and an alarming frequency of use.

  • In our 2010 survey 5% of 15-24 year olds and 4% of 25-34 year olds were using sunbeds, but this has now grown to 8% of 15-24 year olds and 9% of 25-34 year olds in 2017.
  • 24% of sunbeds users are tanning once a week.
  • 51% use sunbeds at least once every two months.
  • 85% Irish people who’ve used sunbeds first did so before the age of 24.

The Society is deeply concerned by these results as young people are most at risk from the dangers of sunbeds - there is a 75% increased risk in the most serious form of skin cancer when people begin tanning regularly before the age of 35 years. 

The Irish Cancer Society has successfully campaigned to increase the VAT rate on sunbeds in Ireland. Until 2018, under the VAT Consolidation Act 2010, sunbed sessions were allowed a reduced VAT rate as it was considered to be a service consisting of ‘care of the human body’, in the same category as beauty treatments, yoga and nail salons, while the standard 23% VAT rate applied to sunscreen. We viewed this as a complete anomaly as by using a sunbed, even once, you are damaging your skin and increasing your risk of skin cancer, and called on Government to address this issue.

On the back of our campaigning, we welcomed the increase in the VAT rate on sunbeds in 2018, bringing it in to line with the standard 23% rate.

Meanwhile, in 2019, The Irish Cancer Society conducted a sunbed mystery shopper survey. The survey showed that 2 out of 5 operators offering sunbed sessions didn’t ask an underage person their age, 2 in 5 did not ask for identification and 1 in 3 did not refuse to book minors.

This is despite the fact that sunbed businesses are legally prohibited from allowing under 18s to use sunbeds.

We continue to call for further action on this issue including:

  • Greater resourcing for Environmental Health Officers, who are responsible for ensuring sunbed operators comply with current legislation. 
  • Consideration of a ban, or partial ban on sunbeds, as Brazil, and Australia have done.

For more information

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01 231 0500

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