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10-06-2012 | Surgery | Article

Body of evidence calls for tighter regulations on cosmetic surgery advertising


UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image website

MedWire News: Cosmetic surgery advertising should be governed under a separate and tightly regulated Advertising Code, according to recommendations made by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Body Image.

The APPG's 2012 inquiry to better understand the causes and effects of body image dissatisfaction in the UK found that current cosmetic advertising practices treated "what is a serious and invasive undertaking as an everyday commodity," thereby normalizing procedures in the minds of patients.

Responding to the APPG recommendations, the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) went further, calling for an outright ban on cosmetic surgery advertisements in public places.

In a press statement, BAAPS President Fazel Fatah said that current "unrestricted ads…are clearly having a negative impact on vulnerable people and particularly children."

The inquiry gathered evidence and opinion through an online public consultation system. A total of 601 submissions were received, from a wide variety of individuals and organizations.

Thereafter, witnesses from organizations with an interest in or association with body image gave evidence during 10 oral sessions at the House of Commons.

The Group gained further insight after receiving briefings and publications from individuals and organizations working in the field.

Their report, Reflections on Body Image, summarizes the evidence presented to the inquiry and gives various conclusions and policy recommendations on issues influencing the perception of body image.

They cited various examples of advertising and promotional activities that may be deemed as "inappropriate": postdivorce makeovers; cross-selling, the practice of offering deals for booking more than one surgical procedure or for booking by a certain time; or even offering surgery as a prize.

Patients can frequently have unrealistic expectations about the outcome of their surgery, perhaps as a result of what the Group call the "mis-sold ideal" portrayed by visual media and advertising.

According to Fatah, however, this ideal image "is simply not achievable by the vast majority of those exposed to it." Furthermore, there is little research supporting the idea that cosmetic surgery can improve confidence or self-esteem, a marketing strategy used in various visual marketing campaigns."

The tightened regulations may be similar to those governing alcohol advertising. Such adverts are not allowed to claim or imply that a product can "enhance confidence or popularity [or] enhance attractiveness."

By Christopher Walsh

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