Backgrounder: Exposing the secret lives of tanning teens in Ontario

26 April 2012



Indoor tanning causes skin cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the Government of Ontario to support the new Private Members’ bill that restricts youth under 18 year of age from using indoor tanning equipment.

The Society has advocated on this important issue for more than six years because research has shown tanning bed use before the age of 35 increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer by 75 per cent. Melanoma skin cancer is also one of the most common and deadliest forms of cancer amongst people ages 15 to 29, and is one of the most preventable.

On April 26, the Society released the results of an Ipsos Reid poll on the tanning behaviors of Ontario youth ages 12 to 17. The results of the poll further strengthen the Society’s call for a ban on the use of indoor tanning equipment by youth under 18.


  • 52% of youth indoor tanners say that their parents pay for their tanning bed use
  • 24% of youth indoor tanners say that parents first introduced them to tanning
  • 21% of youth in grade 12 are using tanning beds
  • 11% of youth in grade 11 are using tanning beds
  • 8% (1 in 10) youth in Ontario are using a tanning bed, up from 5% six years ago


The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the Government of Ontario to:

  • Prohibit youth under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning equipment.
  • Restrict indoor tanning promotions and marketing targeted to youth.
  • Maintain a registry or licensing system for indoor tanning equipment in use in Ontario with fees put towards enforcement.
  • Introduce mandatory, comprehensive, Ontario-specific training for all staff operating indoor tanning equipment. Training should include operation procedures, maintenance and how to identify people with fair skin who are at greater risk of developing cancer.
  • Ensure the health risks associated with ultraviolet radiation (UVR) emitting devices are displayed prominently and in clear view of clients at all indoor tanning facilities.


Internationally, California, France, Australia and the United Kingdom all have laws banning the use of indoor tanning equipment by youth. Brazil has gone much further by banning the use of indoor tanning equipment for cosmetic purposes in 2009.

In Canada, Nova Scotia passed the Tanning Beds Act in December 2010 prohibiting youth under the age of 19 from using indoor tanning equipment.

Most recently, British Columbia announced it will introduce regulations to ban youth under 18 from using indoor tanning equipment in the fall of 2012.


Myth : A “base tan” from a tanning bed provides protection from the sun.
Fact: Getting a base tan by using tanning beds does not protect people from the sun. A tan offers almost no protection from sunlight or burning. Tanned skin is damaged skin. Even when the tan fades, the damage is still there.

Myth: Tanning beds are safer than the sun.
Fact: In 2009, the world’s foremost authority in identifying the causes of cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, classified ultraviolet radiation devices, including tanning beds, as known carcinogens.

Using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer by 75%. Some tanning beds can give off UV radiation that is five times stronger than the mid-day summer sun.

Myth: Indoor tanning provides a healthy dose of vitamin D.
Fact: Because indoor tanning equipment emits harmful ultraviolet rays, it is a dangerous method of getting vitamin D. A few minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is usually all that is needed for the average person to get enough vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D through your diet or by taking vitamin supplements.


Strong public support on issue:

A 2011 Society-commissioned poll showed that 83 per cent of Ontarians would support provincial government legislation that restricts the use of indoor tanning equipment for youth under 18 years of age.

Mandatory guidelines needed:

Voluntary guidelines are not enough. A 2008 audit of the indoor tanning industry in Toronto by the Society overwhelmingly found that indoor tanning salons did not adhere to the established Health Canada voluntary guidelines – demonstrating that self-regulation does not work.

Scope of issue:

A 2007 poll commissioned by the Canadian Cancer Society showed that over 50,000 high school aged students in Ontario have


To make progress in the fight against cancer, we need to fight the disease from different angles. In addition to putting the topic of youth and indoor tanning on the political radar, the Canadian Cancer Society fights cancer through prevention campaigns such as our Tan-Free Prominitiative which challenges teens to embrace their “natural glow” and avoid tanning for their proms. The Society also offers free information and support services that are proven to decrease stress and anxiety in cancer patients and caregivers.

The work of the Canadian Cancer Society is supported by our volunteers and the generous support fundraising campaigns such as April’s Daffodil Month.

For more information on our advocacy work or our information and support services, please visit

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is the only national charity that supports Canadians with all cancers in communities across the country. No other organization does what we do; we are the voice for Canadians who care about cancer. We fund groundbreaking research, provide a support system for all those affected by cancer and advocate to governments for important social change.

Help us make a difference. Call 1-888-939-3333 or visit today.

For more information, please contact:

Justin Edmonstone

Public Affairs

Canadian Cancer Society

Ontario Division

Phone: 416-323-7026