A group of charities, cross-party politicians, patients, and medical professionals have today handed a petition to the government to call on them to abolish value-added tax (VAT) on factor 30+ sunscreen to make it more affordable and reduce cases of skin cancer.
The VAT burn campaign is a reaction to the rising number of skin cancer deaths in the UK and the clear links between the disease and excessive exposure to harmful UV rays.
Sunscreen is a key tool in preventing skin cancer, as well as covering up and staying out of the sun during the heat of the day and avoiding the use of sunbeds. But, with continued pressures on household budgets, many people are struggling to avoid this essential product.
Melanoma Focus, one of the charities involved, released data earlier this year to highlight concerns that the cost of sunscreen is increasing the risk of skin cancer. Their research found that half (50%) of UK adults think sunscreen is too expensive, and most (67%) would use it more if it was cheaper. The research also found that 10% of people don’t use it at all because of the cost, and people with the lowest incomes are less likely to wear sunscreen than any other economic group.
Skin cancer affects people from all economic backgrounds but, as with many cancers, has a link to poverty. Around 4,000 cases of melanoma skin cancer each year in England are linked with economic deprivation. This increases to around 25,000 when including non-melanoma skin cancer cases.
Susanna Daniels, CEO of Melanoma Focus, said: “Skin cancers like melanoma can be deadly, but they are largely preventable. The VAT burn campaign has developed because sunscreen is an important weapon in the fight against melanoma and other forms of skin cancer, but many people are struggling to afford this vital product.
“Our research has found that removing the cost of VAT from sunscreen and making it 20% cheaper will increase its use significantly and therefore reduce cases of melanoma and other skin cancers.”
Lucy Davis, from Walthamstow, London, was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in 2011. Despite having treatment, the cancer spread to her liver and lymph nodes, and she was given a stage four diagnosis. She said: “I’ve found living with melanoma terrifying, and I think it’s appalling that sunscreen is considered a luxury product when it’s so crucial for protecting against this deadly disease. I hate the thought of families being priced out of using sunscreen.
“Any price reduction would send a strong message about the importance of sunscreen for preventing skin cancer.”
Amy Callaghan, MP, added: “Every year, more than 17,000 people across the UK are diagnosed with melanoma, and it takes the lives of 2,300 people. However, 86% of these cases are preventable if simple sun protection measures, including using factor 30+ sunscreen, are taken.
“We’re urging the government to make high-factor sunscreen more affordable and to educate the public on how to best protect their skin.”
The petition, signed by 62 MPs, 143 skin cancer patients, 85 health care professionals, and 163 supporters, and a letter to the prime minister were delivered to Number 10 today by Amy Callaghan, MP, Lucy Davis, and other representatives of the VAT burn campaign.