VICTORIA'S solarium industry is on the brink of collapse, with increased skin cancer fears and a crackdown on rogue operators sparking a 45 per cent drop in the number of tanning salons.
Government figures obtained by The Sunday Age show that 196 businesses have either closed or removed their sunbeds since State Government regulations were introduced in February last year.
Owners say customers started abandoning tanning salons following the public cancer battle of 26-year-old Clare Oliver, who died in September 2007 from melanoma she and her oncology team linked to solarium use.
Since the introduction of the laws, which ban children from using solariums and force operators to display health warnings or risk $1 million fines, the number of tanning salons across the state has plummeted from 436 to 240. But while cancer experts celebrate the news, the industry claims it is a victim of a scare campaign that saw solarium operators compared to heroin dealers...
"The whole Clare Oliver saga just scared a lot of people off. People were comparing us to heroin dealers … It's one thing to regulate, but another thing to wipe out an entire industry."
Is the dramatic decline in solarium use the result of the regulatory response to some supposed market failure in the solarium industry? Is it the response to new information regarding the adverse health effects of excessive solarium use? Or does it suggest that we are particularly open to influence from people who we like, which may in turn give rise to a dramatic shift in social norms?