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CAP proposes ban on cosmetic surgery ads around kids content

Last year, a TV ad for breast enlargement surgery was banned by the watchdog because it was likely to cause harm to teenagers

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) – the body responsible for writing the UK Advertising Codes – is consulting on new rules that would ban cosmetic surgery adverts on content directed at children.

A response to mounting public health and political concerns around the potential harm such advertising can cause, the move would enshrine regulatory restrictions on the promotion of cosmetic interventions for the first time (outside of limits on medical doctors).

What is the CAP proposing?

  • The rules will outlaw cosmetic surgery ads around all media; including TV programmes and online content that is geared toward under-18s or likely to appeal to young audiences.

  • In practice, this means that viewers of shows targeted towards young people would no longer be subjected to breast enlargement offers during airtime.

  • The age-based restrictions would span the targeting, scheduling and placement of such ads, outlawing any association to media with specific appeal to audiences aged 18 and under.

  • The procedures set to fall foul of the toughened rules include breast enlargements, nose jobs, and Botox treatments.

  • Cosmetic products such as creams, makeup and hair care products would be unaffected.

  • The measures have been driven by public health concerns around the insecurities generated by external body image pressures on young people.

  • Fears have also been expressed about the risks of side-effects and complications arising from unnecessary surgical interventions.

  • The promotion of cosmetic surgery will still be permitted for adults.

Why now?

  • CAP is pursuing a broader package of measures focussed on mitigating the harm caused by the depictions of particular body images in advertising and the ramifications this poses for mental health.

  • Related fields under consideration for follow-up action over the following months include weight control and dieting products and practices.

  • CAP director Shahriar Coupal said that the action was all about "strengthening protections for young people and better protecting them from potential harm."

  • The proposed plans follow several decisions from the CAP's sister organisation the ASA to come down hard on cosmetic surgery brands for inappropriate targeting.

  • Last year, a TV ad for breast enlargement surgery was banned by the watchdog because it was likely to cause harm to teenagers.

  • The TV promotion featured 21-year-old fashion blogger Sarah Ashcroft talking about her dislike of her body before having a boob job. In it she said : "I never really looked at any part of my body past my neck because it wasn't something I liked."

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