Many tanning salons not following rules on teens

A CBC News investigation shows many Vancouver tanning salons are not following their industry's voluntary guidelines when it comes to teens and tanning.

CBC News investigation shows 4 of 5 Vancouver salons sold time to underage teen

An adult model poses in a tanning bed, but CBC News's teenaged sleuth never did actually use a bed during the investigation. (CBC)

A CBC News investigation shows many B.C. tanning salons are not following their own voluntary guidelines when it comes to teen tanning.

New B.C. legislation banning indoor tanning for anyone under 18 is expected to become law this fall.

CBC News conducted random tests involving 16-year-old Taryn Audet, who agreed to wear a hidden camera.

The investigation found Audet was easily able to get access to tanning beds in four out of five of the Vancouver salons she visited in the investigation.

Although it’s not yet illegal to sell tanning-bed time to minors in B.C., the Joint Canadian Tanning Association says its members already ask for parental consent for anyone under 18.

Audet did not have proof of parental consent, but only one salon turned her away and one cautioned her it would soon be illegal.

"It's going to be illegal for you in the fall," Audet was told by the employee, who then sold her time on a tanning bed.

Audet said it seemed most salons just wanted her business.

"It's a little bit shady," Audet said. "They're promising that they're going to turn away these young and fair teenagers so that they don't need a law, but they obviously do, because they're not following what they said they were going to."

The complete CBC investigation took place six in cities across Canada — Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Windsor and St. John's and had similar results.

Teenaged girls working with CBC News went to salons and ask if they could have a tanning session. They did not reveal their ages unless asked.

In 20 out of 31 cases — about 65 per cent of the time — the teenagers were allowed into the tanning room. In those cases, the girls did not use the tanning beds.

Hugely increased risk

Steve Gilroy, who runs a tanning salon in Kelowna, is a spokesman for the Joint Canadian Tanning Association and said he’s disappointed with the results of the CBC News investigation and has spoken to the businesses that violated the policy.

"We've actually had conversations with those members for the last three days to make sure that they understand that we should be asking for parental consent under 18," Gilroy said.

The tanning industry says an age ban isn’t really needed, but research shows tanning in your teens increases the odds of skin cancer, and dermatologists say the ban can’t come soon enough. .

"The younger you are when you start, and the more you go, the more you increase your risk of melanoma," said St. John's dermatologist Dr. Ian Landells. 

"Going once before the age of 35 increases your risk of melanoma by 75 per cent. If you go 100 times, 150 times, you almost triple your risk of melanoma."

Audet never actually used any of the tanning beds in the salons where she was able to gain access as part of the CBC investigation.

With files from the CBC's Natalie Clancy