We aren't all ready to be nipped and tucked

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I understand, of course, that cosmetic surgery is all about artifice. But the facts and figures revealed this week strongly suggest that the industry's ubiquity is largely a fantasy. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons claims that procedures are up by more than 5,000 since last year, and now stand at 16,367.

I understand, of course, that cosmetic surgery is all about artifice. But the facts and figures revealed this week strongly suggest that the industry's ubiquity is largely a fantasy. The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons claims that procedures are up by more than 5,000 since last year, and now stand at 16,367.

Yet far from being a breathtaking monument to the popularity of nipping and tucking, this amount of surgery seems small when compared to the wedge of airtime, newsprint and conversation the topic claims. What's more, the sum includes about 6,500 procedures done on the NHS in response to illness and trauma rather than for personal taste, whim or vanity.

Can it really be that only 10,000 people got private cosmetic surgery last year? When surely more than that number of procedures have been featured in TV reality shows? Of course not. The fact is that there are many more people offering surgery without the auspices of the association than within it. The interesting thing, though, is that, even so, the number of surgeons operating in the private sector is still estimated at only around 600.

Again this relatively tiny number can be partly explained. Many of the most popular procedures are not surgery as such, but less invasive interventions such as Botox, filler injections or chemical peels, carried out by unqualified beauty therapists, by dentists or, it is claimed, by amateurs at "Botox parties". Add these to the mix and estimates for cosmetic interventions leap to something in the region of 72,000 a year.

When one ponders how much Leslie Ash's trout pout contributed to the gaiety of the nation, or how often the nation's millions have had Jordan's breasts thrust in their faces, this still doesn't seem like many. Cosmetic surgery's dodgy profile, one can only conclude, is a great deal higher than its uptake. One can only marvel, considering the help it is getting from an enthusiastic media, at how slowly, rather than how quickly, the industry is developing.

Further, while the general impression garnered by the massive coverage of cosmetic surgery pumped out by the media is of an industry growing ever more sophisticated and respectable, it emerged also this week that cosmetic surgery is no more regulated now than it was 20 years ago, in the days of exploding breasts and wind-tunnel facelifts.

Which means, of course, that actually we don't have any idea how many people are getting cosmetic surgery in this country. Maybe these figures seem tiny because they are vast underestimates. But maybe they seem tiny because despite all the hype, all the pages of classified advertisements, and all the television shows extolling the virtues of anal bleaching, we still view cosmetic surgery as something that only the desperately insecure resort to.

Considering our continuing propensity to mock the recipients of cosmetic surgery, and the wish of aficionados to keep their little adjustments secret, it might be time to congratulate ourselves on our doughty resistance to the blandishments of the purveyors of easy glamour. Before it's too late...

¿ The idea that cosmetic surgery is the reshape of things to come is bolstered surely by the news that General Sir Mike Jackson, chief of the British Army's general staff, had his hooded eyelids trimmed on the NHS. He claims it was to assist his "battle vision". But I think it's just proof that in our names we carry our destinies.

Soap writers have lost the plot

Apparently the crisis at EastEnders is so deep that producers considered taking it off air for two weeks, in order to get it back on track. The idea was rejected as "too extreme", probably quite rightly.

The dwindling million still tuning into the ailing soap opera might have learned in their two weeks of cold turkey that kicking the EastEnders habit really feels good, while the soap's problems are so deep seated that a fortnight couldn't begin to solve them.

Among the idiotic melodrama's overwrought problems is its inability properly to develop character. Good guys are constantly mutating into bad guys and back again. We are asked, at present, to feel sorry for poor loving Billy who is buckling under the strain of being unable to accept the child of his wife (whom Billy heroically saved from her abusive former husband), the product of a rape by a different abusive man.

But since we first met Billy when Phil (a family man at that time but now a ruthless criminal murderer on the run) saved Jamie (now dead from a car accident) from being beaten and abused by the same man, it's hard not to feel that Billy's rejection is just what the baby needs.

Further, since all this is supposed to be family viewing, a brief break from the tyranny of soap-watching confirms that there are better things to do with the family at this time. Like bathing the little ones. Or having a proper dinner at the table with the big ones.

Truthfully, although Coronation Street manages to struggle on, the days of the mid-evening soap are numbered altogether. The soaps have become teenage viewing, and ought really to concentrate on that, while adult tastes are much better catered for in imported dramas such as The Sopranos or Six Feet Under. The BBC should be working on producing a 10pm show of similar quality, moving EastEnders to the early evening and the kids.

These kids just don't know when to stop

A new report from the Rowntree Foundation is unlikely to clarify matters in regard to 24-hour drinking. Researchers interviewed 63 young people who had taken part in alcohol misuse. Their study concludes that young people are in most danger when they get drunk in "unsupervised, often outdoor settings". Licensed establishments, the report suggests, "offer a protective factor for a number of risky outcomes". This seems like common sense, though in the current climate it is unlikely to lead to a change in the age at which people can drink in licensed premises.

For under-18s, 24-hour drinking will remain available. It may have to be illicit, but among the young people interviewed there seemed to be little grasp of why this should be the case. Almost all of the young people researchers spoke to saw getting drunk as completely normal, and did not view it as problematic, even though they admitted it could lead to regrettable or dangerous actions. Interestingly, many had not tried drugs at all, while some said that a problem with being drunk was that it lowered resistance to peer pressure to try drugs.

It might be worth establishing whether the huge emphasis on teaching young people the dangers of drugs in recent years has contributed to the idea that alcohol, even in extremely excessive amounts, is safe by comparison. This appears to have been the belief of Glen Stockley, the 18-year-old who drank himself to death on Christmas Eve, seemingly unaware of any of the risks.