Liverpool City Council is urging the Government to amend sunbed legislation after research found that more than four in five young women in the city are unaware of the risks of sunbed use.
The research by Liverpool City Council, which questioned 900 people in the city, showed that 83% of those questioned were unaware that using a sunbed increased the risk of skin cancer.
Last July, the council joined with health chiefs to launch an awareness campaign, saying that regulation was the only way forward.
Now, in a bid to tackle unlicensed tanning salons in the city, an e-petition has been launched in the hope of prompting a debate in Parliament.
Currently, tanning salons are licensed in Wales, Scotland and London, but in other cities such as Liverpool, councils are struggling to ensure that safe equipment is being used and that under-18s are not using the beds.
The council’s recent research findings indicated that a local “sunbed culture” and a desire to follow the “Liverpool look” means that young women are putting themselves at increased risk of skin cancer.
Health professionals say that this popularity of sunbed use in the city and the prevalence of unregulated salons presents a “ticking health time bomb”.
In addition, NHS figures show that since 2000, the number of new cases of malignant melanoma in females in Liverpool has increased by 129% – more than double the increase seen nationally.
Councillor Roy Gladden, Assistant Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “Liverpool has significant levels of sunbed use compared to other parts of the country yet the City Council currently has very few powers to protect residents from the risks of using them.
“Currently anyone who wishes to provide related cosmetic type practices such as tattooing and cosmetic piercing must be registered with their local council and adhere to health and safety standards.
“In light of the risks associated with sunbed use we believe there is a strong case for including sunbed operators in this list of compulsory registration schemes.”
Malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK, with more than 2,000 people dying from the disease each year.
On behalf of The Sunbed Association, Gill Perkins told JMU Journalism: “Liverpool has a particular problem with regards to the number of salons it has and the fact that a lot of the salons in Liverpool are not well-run and there is a particular issue with a lot of underage tanning and that’s obviously one that needs to be addressed.
“We wouldn’t support national licensing, but we do support the idea that local authorities should have the ability to introduce licensing on a local basis if they need to do that.
“There is no evidence that introducing licensing would automatically improve standards, so it comes down to education and training and working with salons to make sure that they are complying.
“We have been working with Liverpool City Council and we are hoping to work with them in the future with regards to helping them looking at raising education training and standards amongst sunbed operators.”