A ban on the use of sunbeds by people under the age of 18 has come into effect.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said it was an essential step in protecting children's health and an important preventative measure in dealing with skin cancer.

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

Operators face a fine of €4,000 or up to six months in prison for a first offence.

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

Skin cancer is the fastest growing cancer in Ireland, with over 10,000 new cases annually.