A public health bill restricting the use of tanning beds is currently passing through the Oireachtas (Ireland's legislature).

If approved, it will impose a ban on anyone under 18 visiting a tanning salon and will also prohibit salons from claiming that tanning beds have health benefits.

Salon owners who break the law will face harsh penalties, with prison time a possible consequence.

At the Environmental Health Association of Ireland’s annual Sunbed Information Day on Monday, the organization was joined by Ireland’s health officials in sounding the alarm on the links between tanning beds and melanoma, and the prevalence of skin cancer in Ireland.

Chairwoman Catriona Stack cautioned that those who use tanning beds before reaching their mid-30s have an 87% higher risk of developing melanoma.

Also up for discussion was the worrying trend of parents taking their young children to tanning salons in the weeks leading up to their first communion. The hope is that the bill will be passed in advance of this year’s first communion season in the spring.

“Using sun beds before their first holy communion could be the start of a lifelong habit,” Stack said.

Minister for Health James Reilly responded to the criticism that the proposed legislation grants the government too much control over citizens’ aesthetic decisions.

"If people feel that it is more of the nanny state, then I point to the statistics,” he said. There are more than 850 new cases of the cancer diagnosed each year, while it accounts for some 150 deaths annually. In 2011, more than 7,000 people suffered from skin cancer. . . . While many people with this skin condition are winning the fight, too many are losing it. Increased education will make children aware of the dangers of sunbed use, and when they are over 18, they can make their own decisions."

In comparison, in the US laws concerning minors visiting tanning salons vary from state to state – some have no regulations, while others stipulate that parental permission must be given, while others have general bans on those under 18 or those under 16 using tanning beds.

For further information, check out the map below from the National Conference of State Legislatures.