Clare Oliver, a budding 26-year-old Australian journalist, died from melanoma on September 13, 2007. At age 19, she had made several visits to a tanning parlor, sustaining skin damage, and in the days before her death, she wrote a newspaper story and gave broadcasts from her hospice bed calling for a ban on tanning beds.1
Her words did not fall on deaf ears. Driven by the public outcry and media firestorm her case stirred up, legislators have passed laws across Australia significantly regulating the tanning industry.
All five major states in Australia — New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland — have banned access to tanning beds for everyone under age 18.2,3 Most states also ban access to fair-skinned people (skin type I),2,3 and operators must display health warnings or risk up to million-dollar fines.4 This flurry of legislation has driven countless tanning parlors out of business, leaving the industry in peril.4
From 1996 to 2006, The Australian Yellow Pages® showed more than a 300 percent increase in tanning salons.5 In the most recent Yellow Pages® for each capital city, the number had dropped by 32 percent in the past three years. Most striking was the change in Melbourne, with a 51 percent decrease in solarium businesses.5,6 Similarly, by late 2009, only half of the 150 businesses using sunbeds in South Australia were still operating, and some of those had stopped offering tanning beds as well.7,8
Victoria’s solarium industry was on the brink of collapse, with a 45 percent drop in tanning salons since the State Government regulations were introduced.4 It had gotten so bad for the tanning industry that its peak body, the Australian Tanning Association, had to disband after being legally challenged by government regulators for its actions.4
Researchers reported in a 2009 Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health that the number of tanning salons nationally had dropped from 406 to 278.5,6 And sometime this year, the number is expected to have dropped by up to 60 percent4 — not all the way there yet, but Clare would undoubtedly be proud of the progress that has been made.
1. Oliver O. A tan to die for. Herald Sun August 23, 2007. http://www.news.com.au/national/a-tan-to-die-for/story-e6frfkx0-1111114248428
2. Solarium ban for under-18s and fair-skinned people, New South Wales, Australia. Medical News Today, April 11, 2008. http://www.medicalnewstoday. com/articles/103748.php
3. Restrictions put on solarium users, from Australian Associated Press, May 11, 2009.
4. Stark J. Tanning salons are fading fast. theage.com.au THE AGE June 21 2009, http://www.theage.com.au/national/tanning-salons-are-fading-fast-20090620-crz0.html.
5. Makin JK, Dobbinson SJ. Changes in solarium numbers in Australia following negative media and legislation. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2009; 33:5.
6. Shepherd T. Cancer dangers shut solariums in South Australia. From: The Advertiser October 7, 2009. http://www.news.com.au/national/cancer-dangersshut-solariums-in-south-australia/story-e6frfkx9-1225783559095
7. Australians turn their backs on solariums, ABC News online, Wed. October 7, 2009, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/10/07/2706889.htm
8. Shepherd T. Tough regulations for solariums come into force. The Advertiser January 7, 2009, updated March 11, 2010. http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/tanning-salons-put-people-at-risk/story-e6frea83-1111118516119.