Charities Call For Scrapping of VAT on Sunscreen

Danielle Lowe
By Danielle Lowe

Danielle Lowe is the Marketing Manager for, ( the UK’s largest aesthetic information website. 

Removing VAT from sunscreens would cut incidence of skin cancer and could save lives, says cancer charity chief.

The high cost of sunscreen is resulting in more skin cancer cases, according to charities who are calling on the UK government to scrap VAT on protective creams.

Melanoma skin cancer is on the rise and 4,000 cases annually are linked to poverty, according to the Melanoma Focus charity, which argues that a VAT cut would reduce the number of deaths.

Susanna Daniels, the chief executive of Melanoma Focus, said: “The government could help make skin protection more accessible to all, regardless of income level, by removing VAT from high-factor sunscreens. This would be a cost-effective way to cut the overall incidence of skin cancer and could help save lives.”

The move would bring the UK closer to Australia, where sunscreen is subsidised.

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the deadliest form of skin cancer – yet 86% of melanomas are preventable.

Melanoma Focus surveyed 2,003 adults, and found that half thought sunscreen was too expensive, while 10% said they did not use it because of the cost and two-thirds (67%) said they would use more if it were 20% cheaper.

The survey also said most people (58%) did not know the signs of melanoma skin cancer, which include a mole that has changed shape, or colour, or looks and feels unusual, as well as skin with a sore that does not heal within four weeks, or has visible lumps, or hurts, itches, bleeds or scabs.

There are about 2,300 melanoma skin cancer deaths in the UK every year, and the number is projected to rise. Cancer Research UK has forecast there could be about 26,500 new cases of melanoma skin cancer every year in the UK by 2038, up from 16,700. One in 36 men and one in 47 women in the UK will be diagnosed in their lifetime.

Amy Callaghan, the MP for East Dunbartonshire and former member of the health and social care committee, backed the call to remove VAT from sunscreen. “When 52% of people in my constituency can’t afford to turn on the heating, it’s unlikely they’ll take on extra expenses like sunscreen,” she said.

Cancer Research UK’s senior health information manager, Dr Claire Knight, added that the cheapest way to protect yourself was to stay in the shade and cover-up. She said: “It’s worth remembering that you don’t need to spend a lot on sunscreen to get good protection – what matters is an SPF of at least 15 and a star rating of 4 or 5.”

An HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We recognise the impact that rising prices are having at home which is why we are providing significant support worth on average £3,300 per household. This includes holding down energy bills, uplifting benefits and delivering direct cash payments."

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