Health studies offering free sunscreen in public places

In Spain, they are diagnosed every year 250 skin cancers per 100,000 inhabitants (78,000 in total) due to ultraviolet radiation. In recent years, cases have increased by 40%. Although the group with the highest incidence is those over 55 years of age, which registers more than half of the cases, in recent years a significant rebound has been observed at younger ages. Today, it is the second cause of death between 20 and 40 years of age, only behind traffic accidents.

Considering that we are one of the countries in the European Union with the most sunny days per year – 300 on average– the sun protection could be considered a necessary product, and not a consumer good taxed with a VAT of 21%.

Well, this would be what the Ministry of Healthas well as place free sunscreen dispensers in public placesas confirmed by a spokesperson for this department to LA RAZÓN.

The proposal makes sense since it started from the political formation of the current Minister of Health, Monica Garciaand she herself presented it before the Madrid Assembly in July of last year, when she still held the position of deputy in that chamber.

Public dispensers

At that time, Más Madrid (now Sumar) presented two initiatives in this sense: that of the Madrid Assembly, in the form of a Non-Law Proposal (PNL) “so that public organizations are the ones that put sunscreen dispensers in places public”, and another in the Senate so that This product had a reduced VAT. Furthermore, García proposed that Sunscreen will also be provided free of charge to companies that have workers exposed to the sun. (The population groups most vulnerable to sun damage are personnel who work outdoors, the elderly and children).

Although details are unknown, such as which locations would be chosen to place these dispensers and what the logistics would be like, the current minister already gave some clues in statements to the media last year. “Libraries, health centers, parks, sports centers… We want social interventions like this, linked to health, to be carried out in these spaces, which also serve as a climate refuge,” he explained.

These “interventions” are probably accompanied by awareness campaigns in educational centers, institutional social networks and advertising spaces to promote photo protection, as they proposed.

Last summer, the Netherlands carried out an initiative like the one that is currently being studied. During the month of July, it launched a campaign to offer its citizens and visitors free sunscreen. And it did so through different dispensers located in various public places in the city of Amsterdam.

“Ecological and natural”

Likewise, it is foreseeable that the premise raised in the aforementioned PNL that the chosen creams be “natural and ecological, free of endocrine disruptors and other toxic chemicals harmful to health and the environment” will be maintained.

The change in the category of sun creams as “essential goods” would be added to other initiatives along the same lines announced by Health in recent months – such as financing glasses and contact lenses – or already implemented – such as the reduction of VAT to 4% of feminine hygiene products. It could be regulated either by reducing the tax rate on these products or by financing them (in whole or in part) so that they could be purchased with a prescription in pharmacies.

In December 2021, the European Union approved the reform of VAT rates, which allowed member countries to exempt sanitary and feminine hygiene products, among others, from taxes.

Priority groups

The proposal that the Ministry of Health is now studying for the entire population is a “historical” request from groups of patients with sun allergies and lupus. A disease, the latter, in which the immune system attacks the body's own healthy tissues because it mistakes them for foreign tissues and which, in some cases, can cause very serious injuries, intense joint pain, fatigue, the need for transplants and even , death.

Those who suffer from it require a constant and broad spectrum protection (50+) against ultraviolet rays, so the use of sun creams is, in their case, a matter of life or death. However, the SNS has never financed them for them.