Kat Banyard: Ban surgery ads that prey on women's fears

It is legal for clinics to advertise medically unnecessary invasive surgery

Share
Related Topics

For a trade fuelled by the public scrutiny of women's bodies, the cosmetic surgery industry hasn't enjoyed recently finding itself the subject of the media gaze. It didn't take long for the PIP breast implant scandal to expose as a sham the carefully crafted public image of responsible professionalism the industry fosters. Unencumbered by regulation and accountability, the UK cosmetic surgery industry has ballooned into a £2.3bn business – and a public health scandal. But, unless action is taken to curb the aggressive advertising campaign at the heart of this expansionist project, perhaps the most widespread damage being wreaked by this trade will continue unabated.

Unlike prescription medicines, it is totally legal for commercial clinics to advertise medically unnecessary invasive surgery. And advertise they do. In public spaces, in magazines, on the internet and on TV. "Is cosmetic surgery only for the rich and famous? Not any more, it is a Lifestyle choice!", boasts a Right Choice ad in Cosmopolitan magazine. It's estimated that 10 per cent of surgical turnover is spent on advertising. This is spending with a purpose: it drives demand and helps normalise the idea of cosmetic surgery. So, while those undergoing the 100,000 cosmetic surgical procedures carried out each year are in the minority, half of young women aged 16 to 21 now say they would consider it.

But cosmetic surgery ads are a public health hazard. They frame surgery as quick and easy, trivialising the risks, like blood clots, post-operative infection and, in rare cases, death. In promising "affordable surgery with flexible finance options", a Harley Medical Group ad is typical of clinics' attempts to convince women, through special offers and discounts, that not even money is a barrier. Leading clinicians insist that one of the most important steps to reducing clinical risk is removing the profit motive. Yet that motive is the only reason cosmetic surgery clinics advertise.

The ads also ruthlessly exploit women's body hatred. "I've had my breasts done, but everyone notices my smile", reads a Transform ad campaign. Missing from the small print is that those who've undergone cosmetic surgery are more likely to have low self-esteem than those who haven't, and women who've had breast implants are three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. Cosmetic surgery clinics like to say it's all about personal choice, yet we're forced to see their ads. To stop them implanting their toxic ideas, the Government should legislate to outlaw this advertising, as France did in 2005. "Confidence," claims Harley Medical Group, "starts with cosmetic surgery excellence." Wrong. It starts when we consign these pernicious ads to the dustbin of history.

Kat Banyard is author of 'The Equality Illusion' and founder of UK Feminista, whose campaign for a ban on cosmetic surgery ads launches this week.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test