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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company provides outsourced busines...

Telesales & Sales Support Apprentice

£221.25 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a well established Inter...

Desk Based Sales Apprentice

£153.75 - £192.38 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a network of i...

Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Britain's youngest mum is lucky to have a father who is supporting her while society condemns

Louise Scodie
 

i Editor's Letter: Wages are on the rise (so long as you skew the figures)

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal