Extra tax on sunbeds to be explored due to cancer concerns

Health officials report ‘concerning trend’ of increased melanoma skin cancers, particularly in women

The Department of Health has said officials will consider the “feasibility” of placing an additional tax on sunbeds due to the health risks posed by the tanning beds, according to a new strategy to tackle skin cancer.

The new plan, published on Wednesday, committed to exploring the “feasibility of evidence-based fiscal measures on sunbeds” in Ireland.

The strategy also proposed that officials would commission research into the motivations of people who use sunbeds.

The previous Government increased the Vat on sunbed services from 13.5 per cent to 23 per cent in 2017, citing the link between sunbeds and skin cancer.


Minister of State for public health Hildegarde Naughton said sunbeds posed “extreme harm” to those who used them.

The Fine Gael TD said climate change would mean the risk of damage to skin from the sun would become even greater.

“In Ireland we’re particularly vulnerable to UV damage, as many of us have fair skin which burns easily and tans poorly, as the impacts of climate change become more severe this is an issue of rapidly growing importance,” she said.

Dr Triona McCarthy, assistant director of the National Cancer Control Programme, said there had been a “concerning trend” of a recent rise in cases of melanoma skin cancer in women. There was also a higher rate of the cancer among younger cohorts, which was “really significant,” she said.

Bernie Rice, whose daughter Sharon Rice O’Beirne died from cancer after being diagnosed initially with melanoma, also spoke at the launch of the department plan.

Her daughter, who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2006 when she was 31-years-old, was a “bright, intelligent” woman, she said.

“A mole on the side of her leg changed and went undetected for some time. Why? Because Sharon was busy with life and a career and knew nothing of the cancer that had now invaded her body,” she said.

While surgery removed the melanoma, the cancer later came back in her lymph nodes, and then again in her liver, she said.

Ms Rice recalled sitting by her daughter’s bed in hospital in early 2008 at which point they knew “she was never going to recover”.

“She would ask me to bring the nurses some sweets in the evening time, always expressing how hard they worked and how grateful she was for their care,” she said.

“I had given her her first breath and held her hand as she breathed her last. My beautiful girl had left us, all her wonderful plans for life never materialised because of her lack of knowledge of one deadly disease, melanoma,” she said.

Ms Rice said she would encourage everyone to be more aware of the dangers of melanoma, and to protect themselves when out in the sun.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times