VICTORIA (NEWS1130) – If you’re under 18, you are going to have to leave BC if you want to get bronzed in a tanning bed.  The province says it will ban minors from tanning indoors by the fall except with a doctor’s note.

Health Minister Mike de Jong says they want to stop more people from getting preventable skin cancer, especially melanoma.

The ban comes after a review by from an Indoor Tanning Working Group, including doctors, politicians and the tanning industry.

The province has studies showing indoor tanning before the age of 35 raises the risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, by 75-per-cent.

Speaking at a news conference at the BC Cancer Agency, de Jong says he understands the tanning industry opposes the ban but it’s meant to avoid future health problems and costs, “The industry, for example, [is] very much alive to the fact you should have qualified people operating indoor tanning equipment for anyone that’s using it.”

According to de Jong, they hope to have the ban in place by the fall.

Youth under 18 may still use a tanning bed if they get a doctor’s prescription.  Dermatologist Dr. David McLean says ultraviolet light can be used to treat conditions like psoriasis, but he’s thrilled with the teen tanning ban.

“I have seen twelve-year olds, thirteen-year olds, very often girls, going to a tanning salon because their peers are also going and they want to look the same,” McLean says.  “I think it’s very important to level the playing field across the province.”

Cancer survivor Kathy Barnard says she was an obsessive tanner in her teens and endured numerous surgeries afterward.

“Be proud of the skin you’re in,” she stresses.  “Own it, protect it, save it.  I know now that I would rather be alive with the skin I was given than die in the skin I so desperately wanted to have.”

Steven Gilroy with the Joint Canadian Tanning Association says their group is disappointed with the ban, saying it’s too heavy-handed and takes away parents’ rights to decide what their kids can do. He adds people under 18 aren’t a lot of their business either.

“They only come in, though, for vacations, prom seasons, that type of thing.  Our average client is 30,” he admits.

He says he thinks the working group on tanning was stacked against them.

“But we think if [de Jong] goes through with the rest of the recommendations, we hope that that will bring the professionalism up in our industry…What we want to get rid of is unmanned tanning and making sure that we have control through certified and trained operators operating that equipment,” explains Gilroy.

Canadian Cancer Society volunteer Alicia Perry has been helping with the tan-free grad campaign to try to stop grade 12 students from darkening up before graduation, “The message is to own your own skin tone and be proud of the skin that you’re in, so that’s the message that we’re setting forward.”

“[The warning is getting through] yes, but unfortunately education alone is not enough,” admits Perry.