Leading article: Service with a plastic smile

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The Independent Online

One of the ironies of our ageing society is that there has never been so much emphasis on the need to look young. So it's no surprise, as The Independent reports today, that more and more people are going under the knife to keep the spectre of age at bay.

Figures produced by the British Association of Plastic Surgeons confirm that men are also entering what was once a women's preserve. There was an 80 per cent rise last year in the number of men undergoing cosmetic makeovers, even if they are still only a small minority of the total.

Jeremiahs will of course rail against this trend, denouncing as superficial those not willing to accept the advent of their wrinkles with a submissive shrug. There has been talk of a government clampdown and of the prosecution of thousands of clinics that fail to comply with new rules on advertising.

But in defence of the more than 20,000 Britons who underwent plastic surgery last year, they doubtless feel they simply know the score. If they want a new job, or a new relationship, they fear they go into battle with an instant disadvantage if they have bags under the eyes, sagging skin, an odd nose, or any other scars that attest too obviously to the number of years they have spent on the planet.

They may well be right. Image counts more than ever in a 21st-century economy that no longer depends much on manufacturing but on the provision of services. And when people say service, they mean service with a smile - even if that has come about as the result of cosmetic treatment.