Campaign: Passing of legislation to ban minors from indoor tanning machines in Ontario. dpPR press conference at Queens Park. Seen in 2nd photo from left Kate Neale of CCS, with Daniel Paquette of dpPR in middle, with Ontario Minister of Health Deb Matthews at far right.
Canadian Cancer Society won a major victory on Oct. 9, when Ontario passed legislation that prohibits minors from using tanning beds.
The charitable organization had been lobbying for a ban since 2005, saying it will help prevent skin cancer among youth. A concerted public relations effort played a big role in drumming up public support for a ban and making the issue top of mind for MPPs.
“PR helped get the message out, not only to the general public but to the government,” said Daniel Paquette, principal and founder of Toronto-based dpPR, which has developed a number of PR campaigns for Canadian Cancer Society’s Ontario division over the past two-and-a-half-years.
“You have to get to every MPP across the province, so it’s not just doing PR campaign out of Queen’s Park and promoting it towards the Minister of Health.”
The Skin Cancer Prevention Act will make it illegal for anyone under 18 to use tanning beds. It also bans the marketing of tanning services to youth and requires tanning salons to request I.D. from anyone who looks under 25.
For the past five years, the ban was championed by New Democrat MPP France Gélinas, who twice brought forward private member’s bills. After many delays, the Liberals tabled the bill this past March.
Shortly after that, the Canadian Cancer Society launched #tanbedban to get a surge of public support to get the bill passed. The campaign urged Ontarians to join the movement calling for a ban on indoor tanning for youth. Supporters were asked to send a message to MPPs through TakeAction.Cancer.ca and spread the word on social media using the hashtag #tanbedban. It also included a video called “Killer Tan” that drove home the message that indoor tanning causes cancer.
Putting a face to the cause also went a long way in getting media coverage. Kate Neale, a young skin cancer survivor, has served a spokesperson for the Canadian Cancer Society since 2012. Neale, 23, is a Belleville, Ont., native who worked at a tanning salon and used indoor tanning extensively as a young teen. She was diagnosed with melanoma cancer at the age of 21.
Neale spoke at a Queen’s Park press conference in April 2012 in support of the ban. That year, she also visited high schools across Ontario, educating students about the risks of tanning and urging them to go “tan-free” for prom. “We wanted to appeal directly to teens and young people,” said Paquette. “This wasn’t some old doctor talking.”
Paquette said #tanbedban was the culmination of about five other PR campaigns that kept rolling into one another. “It was more than a two-year campaign and it involved tens of millions of media impressions,” said Paquette.
DPPR’s first PR campaign for Canadian Cancer Society aimed to dismiss the myth that young people need “base tans” before going to sunny destinations on March Break. That led to the campaign to get prom-goers to stay out of tanning salons before the big event. Aside from Neale’s talks at high schools, the campaign included a video with a “musical theatre” theme.
“There were a lot of different messages that we got out, but we had to do it in a way that would get media’s attention because this issue is or has been dealt with in almost every province,” said Paquette. Quebec, B.C., Manitoba, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador have all passed legislation restricting the use of tanning beds by youths.
Aside from the PR campaigns, Canadian Cancer Society did extensive work on the lobbying front. Over the years, Canadian Cancer Society volunteers met with MPPs at Queen’s Park, participated in numerous letter-writing campaigns and make deputations at municipal council meetings, successfully helping to pass three indoor tanning bylaws across the country.