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Illustration by Devin Beauregard

OPH aims to educate youth about tanning 

ON NOV. 8, Ottawa Public Heath (OPH) launched the Enjoy the Skin You’re In social media campaign, in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Care Ontario, and three local health units, that aims to raise aware- ness among youth about the risks of tanning.

“We would like to change attitudes, intentions, knowledge, and behaviour regarding the use of indoor tanning equipment,” said Jason Haug, the project officer for Ottawa Public Health. “The campaign follows the initiatives set out from the province, [which] mandated public health units to pursue UV expo- sure reduction. Tanning beds are a part of that [strategy].”

The campaign targets youth through Facebook and YouTube to create aware- ness about the risks of tanning while dis- pelling myths around it.

“Using tanning beds before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma skin cancer by 75 per cent,” said Haug. “There are a lot of myths around vitamin D, [like tanning] is a safe way to obtain vitamin D, which is not true.”

“There are a lot of myths around the base tan,” he said. “For example, that having a tan from a tanning bed will protect you, but it is actually already a
sign of skin damage.” The campaign sheds light on the consequences of tanning—early aging symptoms, melanoma skin cancer, and development of cataracts on the eyes— through an app, Indoortanme.com, which shows users how indoor tanning can affect their appearance in the long term.

Tanning professionals maintain in- door tanning can be beneficial despite the risks if carefully implemented.

“We offer a controlled environment with certified staff,” said Andy Boznar, owner of Utan, a tanning salon on cam- pus. “We educate our customers on the truths of tanning rather than creating or encouraging false assumptions.”

Many tanning companies take steps to inform tanners of risks associated with indoor tanning—restricting the age at which clients begin to tan is one such measure.

“Basically, in Ontario, the law states that you must be at least 16 years of age or older to tan without parental con- sent,” said Boznar. “At Utan, when we opened our doors 11 years ago, we ad- opted a policy from day one that anyone under 18 years of age requires parental consent to tan in our facility.”

Boznar said moderate exposure under strict supervision and ensuring no one is over-exposed can be healthy.

“Getting that sun–getting that heat, the warmth–not only is it therapeutic for sore muscles and things like that, [but] it also makes people feel good,” said Boznar.

The Enjoy the Skin You’re In cam- paign was launched to help Cancer Care Ontario’s goal to reduce the use of tan- ning beds by 75 per cent by 2020. More information on indoor tanning can be found on the campaign’s Facebook group and from many tanning salons.

—Christopher Radojewski