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Skin Cancer: Removing VAT on sunscreen could help save lives

SNP Health Spokesperson Amy Callaghan MP details her own experiences of battling melanoma as she pushes for removing VAT on sunscreen. Removing VAT on sunscreen could help prevent skin cancer and save lives, the SNP Health Spokesperson has claimed.

Amy Callaghan, the MP for East Dunbartonshire who was first diagnosed with melanoma as a teenager, warned the price of sunscreen was preventing people from using it when required. Now trying to raise awareness of skin cancers, Ms Callaghan pointed to studies suggesting the cost was prohibitive.

She said: "So right now sunscreen is kind of outrageously unaffordable. It's six, seven, eight pounds for quite a basic bottle of sunscreen. And if you're going for your weekly shop and you're looking at the things that you can afford, and you can't, you're going to drop something that you don't deem to be essential.

"Currently, the way the UK government are taxing sunscreen by applying VAT on it implies it's a luxury good, thereby suggesting it is not an essential item. If a government's kind of branding it as such, then we are hardly going to be encouraging folk to wear it themselves.

"The reality is that 90 per cent of skin cancers are avoidable if you wear sunscreen and apply it correctly, so that's over 2,000 lives each year that could be saved if people just wore sunscreen.

"We all do it when we go on holiday, but the reality is we should all be wearing it whenever you've got sun exposure, particularly on your face, but ideally all over your body. "

Cancer Research UK said last year that melanoma skin cancer diagnoses across all age groups had reached a record high, with 17,500 people diagnosed each year in the UK.

Pointing to market research by Tesco and Melanoma Focus, Ms Callaghan claimed two thirds of people have said they would buy more sunscreen or use it more regularly if it was more affordable.

"But there's also, of course, an education issue there as well," she said. "People buy it for going on holiday, so they are likely to add it to their Boots basket for going to Spain or wherever it is. But they are less likely to buy it in their general shop here, which is something we are trying to do.

"When the UVA index reaches a certain number, you are supposed to be protecting your skin from the sun because it can damage you. You might not be getting sunburnt, but the sun is still doing damage to you skin."

Discussing her own experiences, the SNP frontbencher said her own experiences of skin cancer had driven her to help others.

She said, "I had melanoma when i was 19, I relapsed at 21 and it was pretty desperate. It was difficult, it was hard. I don't want anyone to go through what I went through.

"So I am using my position, my degree of influence, to prevent more people getting diagnosed with skin cancer, but specifically melanoma.

"But people die from non-melanoma skin cancers too, and I think I would like to see us shift from a 'it's just skin cancer' to taking this seriously, and recognising that thousands of people die from this each year. "

Ms Callaghan said two other MP's who survived melanoma were backing the campaign, including Labour's Sir Chris Bryant, and the Tories Maggie Throup.

Alexander Brown for The Scotsman


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