Skin cancer charities call for SPF tax to be scrapped

Published 31st May 2023 by PB Admin

Wear SPF every day to lower the risk of skin cancer, is the advice of healthcare experts and dermatologists everywhere... But its current cost could be offputting to those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis warn UK cancer charities. 

Several UK charities have called for value-added tax (VAT) on sunscreens to be scrapped in a bid to make them more affordable.

Right now Sunscreen is classified as a "cosmetic" product and carries a 20% tax. This adds around £1.50 to the cost of a bottle.

It is only available without VAT to a select group of patients on an NHS prescription list suffering from certain conditions when dispensed by a pharmacist.  

In a survey of 2,003 people commissioned by the charity Melanoma Focus on sunscreen, half thought it is too expensive and around two-thirds said they would wear more sun cream if it were 20% cheaper. Meanwhile, 10 % said they don't use sunscreen at all due to the cost.

The survey also showed that 87% of people regularly put sunscreen on their children in the summer, but among those who didn’t, 12% said that is because of the high cost.

Seeing as the majority of skin cancers are caused by sun damage, Melanoma Focus is calling on the Government to remove the VAT for high-factor sunscreens, citing the cost of living crisis and stating that people on the very lowest incomes are less likely to wear sunscreen than any other economic group.

The charity stated that 4,000 cases of melanoma annually are linked to poverty and argues that a VAT cut would reduce the number of preventable deaths.

“Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the deadliest form of skin cancer - 86 per cent of melanomas are preventable and, therefore, wearing a high SPF sunscreen is a hugely important safety measure for protecting against it,” said Susanna Daniels, chief executive of Melanoma Focus.

“We know that people are experiencing increasing pressures on their finances at the moment but, with skin cancer rates on the rise, the use of sunscreen should be a high priority. The Government could help make skin protection more accessible to all, regardless of income level, by removing VAT from high-factor sunscreens.”

Protecting skin in the sun

It's not just the rising cost of living that deters people from wearing sunscreen but also the desire for a sunkissed glow with many believing that wearing spf will reduce the chances of getting a tan. 

Additionally, while the dangers of sun beds are well known, there are many people that still regularly use them. Meanwhile, there are still groups of people who believe that SPF is only needed on blistering days with sun and blue skies when it should be worn daily, even when it's cloudy and others who believe it is not needed for darker skin.  

"While price may be a barrier for some, it's worth remembering that you don't need to spend a lot on a sunscreen to get good protection - what matters is an SPF of at least 15, and a star rating of 4 or 5,” said Claire Knight, from Cancer Research UK.

"There may be other reasons people don't use sunscreen - for example, not realising that you can burn on a cloudy day, or mistakenly thinking make-up with SPF in is sufficient… But when it comes to sun safety, sunscreen is only part of it. Spending time in the shade and covering up with clothing are the best and cheapest ways to protect yourself against damage from too much of the sun's UV rays."

"Few realise that getting painful sunburn just once every two years can triple your risk of skin cancer," said Dr Louise Soanes, Chief Nurse, Teenage Cancer Trust as reported by the BBC.

"Preventing skin cancer by using an effective sun cream is essential - and sun cream shouldn't be a luxury that only some can afford."

Recognising sun protection as vital healthcare and not an optional beauty product, retailer Superdrug has announced that it will be reducing the price of its own brand suncare Solait by 20%.

The reduction came into effect across 41 products from May 31 and will remain in place until the end of the year, ensuring that families have access to affordable sun protection amid the financial crisis.

The announcement is supported by Melanoma Focus and Superdrug partner Beauty Banks which donates needed beauty products to those living in poverty. 

“As a leading accessible health and beauty retailer, we believe that everyone should have access to the products that protect their health and wellbeing and at an affordable price. Sunscreen is currently classed as a cosmetic product and therefore carries the VAT associated with it, making it unaffordable for some people," said Superdrug’s own brand director, Jamie Archer. 

"Through our work with Beauty Banks we know that requests for donations of sun care products has gone up, with some people even having to forego it altogether, which is concerning to hear. We hope that by reducing the price of our Solait range we can help make sun protection more affordable and allow families to stay safe in the sun.”

"This move by Superdrug is a big step in the right direction and a brilliant start to our mission to have VAT removed from all high-factor sunscreens across the UK," added Daniels. 

What do you think about the current cost of sunscreen in the UK? Let us know in the comments.

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 31st May 2023

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