With Skin Cancer Awareness Month underway, several cancer charities are calling for the Government to scrap the 20% tax on sunscreen in a drive to make SPF products more affordable.

At the current rate of 20%, VAT adds around £1.50 to a bottle of sunscreen.

The charities are pushing for an exemption on all high-factor protective creams (excluding foundation and BB creams) arguing that the cost of living crisis is preventing many from affording essential personal care items – in this case, to the potential detriment of their health.

Dr Louise Soanes, chief nurse at the Teenage Cancer Trust, says: “Few realize that getting painful sunburn just once every two years can triple your risk of skin cancer. Preventing skin cancer by using an effective sun cream is essential – and sun cream shouldn’t be a luxury that only some can afford.”

The charity Melanoma Focus, which ran a survey of 2,000 UK residents aged 16-plus, reports that around 50% of respondents believe sunscreen is too expensive and that one in ten find it so cost-prohibitive that they don’t use it.

When 52% … can’t afford to turn on the heating it’s unlikely they’ll take on extra expenses like sunscreen

Speaking on behalf of Cancer Research UK, Claire Knight, senior health information manager, comments: “While price may be a barrier for some, it’s worth remembering that you don’t need to spend a lot on a sunscreen to get good protection – what matters is an SPF or at least 15 and a star rating of four or five.”

Backing up the charities’ call for a VAT exemption is Scottish National Party MP Amy Callaghan who was diagnosed with melanoma aged 19 and is petitioning Government to take action to protect the population. “More people wearing sunscreen means fewer people getting melanoma. But 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. That’s why we must make sunscreen more affordable by removing VAT.”