A ban on the use of sunbeds by people under the age of 18 comes into effect on Monday.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said it is an essential step to protect children's health and an important preventative measure in terms of skin cancer.

About 150 Irish people die every year from melanoma, he said, and more than 850 new cases of melanoma are reported in the country each year.

The ban will be enforced by the Health Service Executive and environmental health officers.

There will be a fine of €4,000 or up to six months in prison for a first offence.

The Irish Cancer Society welcomed the move, saying it is the first time the sunbed industry will be regulated by law.

The society's Head of Advocacy and Communications, Kathleen O'Meara, said up to 28,000 children and young people risk their lives in search of a tan each year.

She added: "The link between sunbeds and skin cancer is clear - the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has placed sunbeds in the highest cancer risk category.

"This means that sunbed use is as carcinogenic as tobacco or plutonium."