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HEALTH

Could France soon outlaw sunbeds?

France could be about to outlaw sunbeds after the country's health watchdog called for artificial tanning salons to be completely banned due to the "proven" cancer risk associated with using them.

Could France soon outlaw sunbeds?
Photo: AFP
France's national agency of food and health safety ANSES has raised the alarm over the use of the artificial tanning method. 
 
“In France, it has been estimated that 43 percent of melanomas in young people could be attributed to using these cabins before the age of 30,” said the agency in its recent report.
 
As a result, the public health body asked on Wednesday that “the authorities take any measure likely to stop the exposure of the population to artificial UV” in the face of the cancer risk.
 
“We recommend stopping activity related to artificial tanning, and also stopping the sale of devices providing UV exposure for aesthetic purposes,” said Olivier Merckel from ANSES.
 
According to the health safety agency, “people who have used tanning booths at least once before the age of 35 increase the risk of developing skin melanoma by 59 percent”.
 
Skin cancer is one of the leading causes of death among people under 35 in France.
 
Sunbeds also cause other undesirable side effects such as premature skin aging, which experts estimate could be four times faster with tanning lamps than in the sun.
 
So, why do sunbeds pose such a risk?
 
Tanning beds mainly emit UVA and provide intense exposure much richer than you get in natural light. 
 
The exposure to the UV can also damage the DNA in your skin cells which over time can build up to cause skin cancer. On top of that, the user may feel, incorrectly, a feeling of security due to the absence of sunburn.
 
ANSES notes that “no limit can be put in place to fully protect users”.
 
The health agency, which already recommended banning sunbeds in 2014, also stressed the urgency of the situation.
 
“We can not wait,” said Olivier Merckel from ANSES. “Scientific data is accumulating, there is no longer any doubt, we have solid evidence, the risk of cancer is proven, we have data on the risks.
 
“Now we recommend action by the public authorities.”
 
And they aren't alone in their fight. 
 
In 2015, French dermatologists called for the banning of sunbeds, along with France's medical council and several senators but so far no action has been taken. 
 
Whether the government will listen this time remains to be seen. 

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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