LONDON (TrustLaw) – Feminists and plastic surgeons in Britain have called on the government to ban advertising for cosmetic surgery, saying it exploits and perpetuates women’s body insecurities and trivialises the inherent risks of such procedures.
Based on a survey of advertisements in some of the most-read women’ magazines, UK Feminista said most plastic surgery adverts pictured young, slim women dressed in clothing which emphasised particular body features, and some targeted women at vulnerable times in their lives to go under the knife.
Exposing women to such images has a harmful effect on their self esteem and encourages many of them to have plastic surgery, UK Feminista said its report “Cut It Out – End Cosmetic Surgery Advertising”, published on Thursday.
“Cosmetic surgery adverts are a public health hazard, “said Kat Banyard, director of UK Feminista. “(They) prey on women’s widespread unhappiness with their bodies, making false promises of confidence and self-esteem.”
The group said Britain should follow France, which outlawed cosmetic surgery advertising in 2005.
The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) has also called for a ban, and leading surgeons joined UK Feminista in its campaign by signing a joint letter.
The initiative follows a recent scandal over PIP breast implants, in which tens of thousands of women in France and Britain were advised to have their breast implants removed amid health fears.
The scandal had thrown a spotlight on an industry that is “dangerously unaccountable and unregulated, free to target vulnerable groups and persuade them to undergo invasive surgey in order to generate profits,” the report said.
UK Feminista said the advertising of medically unnecessary cosmetic surgery should be outlawed just as there is a legal ban on advertising prescription medicines.
A GROWING MARKET
Some 90 percent out of an estimated 100,000 cosmetic surgical procedures carried out in Britain per year is undergone by females, UK Feminista said. The market, estimated to be worth £2.3 billion per year, grew by 17 per cent between 2007 and 2010, according to the report.
The report also said that half of women aged 16 to 21 would consider having a cosmetic surgery.
People who had plastic surgery are more likely to have low self esteem than those how haven’t, the report said. However, it did not say whether low self esteem was a direct result of the person undergoing surgery, or whether this was a reason to have surgery in the first place.
The report also cites a study by U.S. researchers, which found that the more women were likely to internalise messages about appearance, the more likely they were to desire cosmetic surgery.
Neither of the bodies that oversee codes of practice in the self-regulated advertising industry mentions cosmetic surgery in its codes.
As cosmetic surgery adverts often claim that undergoing plastic surgery improves one’s confidence, it is up to Britain’s Advertising Standards Agency, which regulates advertising across all media, to verify such claims, which UK Feminista calls “unrealistic”.
Fazel Fatah, director of BAAPS said, despite regulations within the advertising industry itself, the commercial sector is not capable of regulating advertising of cosmetic surgeries.
Elli Moody, policy and campaigns manager at UK Feminista, told TrustLaw that the organisation will advertise their campaign in social media and will also be lobbying legislators.
UK Feminista did not have figures on how the French ban influenced women’s decisions on undergoing plastic surgery, or what impact it had on the industry. Moody said though that fewer complications following plastic surgery had been recorded since the ban.
(Editing by Astrid Zweynert)