Solarium Ban Sparks Black Market Trade

As per the NSW government’s pledge to ban commercial solariums by December 31, 2014, business owners are now disposing of their tanning beds – but many solarium owners are shunning the government’s cash-back scheme in favour of bigger rewards on the black market, writes Nadia Stennett.


“In one week, it’s my 26th birthday, and I don’t even know whether I’m going to make that,” melanoma patient Clare Oliver stuttered through tears to a camera from her hospital bed.

Three weeks later, Oliver was dead. By the time of her passing in September 2007, the vibrant twenty-something who loved to travel and visit the solarium in search of bronzed skin, had become an unwitting anti-tanning activist.

Just days before her death, Oliver’s stern warning to fellow sun bed frequenting young people was immortalised in a television interview with 60 Minutes, which would later become part of the now iconic  ‘No Tan Is Worth Dying For’ ad campaign.

“We need to have young people know that solariums are dangerous. I was a 22-year-old, just graduated from uni and just got into the workforce and, yeah, it was all great, and then, suddenly, my world came crashing down… I don’t want my death to be in vain. I want the message out there.”

Oliver’s message was heard loud and clear. In February 2012, the NSW government announced solariums would be banned across the state by December 31, 2014.

Now, six years after Oliver’s highly publicised death, salons have begun disposing of their tanning beds, which the government has offered businesses a $1000 cash-back to destroy. But some business owners are less than impressed with the return.

“I’ve had my business here for 16 years and a thousand dollars for a bed is an insult,” Soleil tanning salon owner Fiona Gamble told the Sydney Morning Herald.

With advertisements for at-home tanning beds starting to appear on social sites like Facebook and Gumtree for up to $8,000 a pop, health officials have started stepping in, pulling ads from one business owner earlier this month due to ‘illegal’ content.

Everyone is either going to go to the beach or start using illegal tanning injections.

The NSW Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has also announced it will crack down on salons this year to ensure business owners are complying with the new regulations.

But with some clients still desperate to get their fix, it’s expected black market trade will persist.

“I’ve had so many people saying can they buy the beds or start an underground business,” Sun 7 salon owner Rachel Nelson says.

“Everyone is either going to go to the beach or start using illegal tanning injections.”

Despite concerns of the emergence of black market salons, the Cancer Council’s 2013-14 National Sun Protection Survey shows 79% of adults support the ban.

“A new review of research shows that using a sun bed before you are 35 boosts your risk of melanoma by 87% (previously thought to be 75%),” says chair of the Victorian Co-operative Oncology Group (VCOG) Skin Cancer Committee, Simon Donahoe.

“This adds to existing evidence showing that solariums are dangerous, and irrefutably linked to cancer.”

Have your say: What do you think of the ban on solariums? How will it affect your salon?


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