New rules for advertising cosmetic interventions
The restrictions prohibit advertising for cosmetic interventions (eg lip fillers or nose reshaping surgeries) from being targeted at under-18s. Ads for cosmetic interventions will not be allowed in:
non-broadcast media (ie media that can be accessed at any time) aimed at under-18s or for which under-18s make up more than 25% of the audience
broadcast programmes aimed at or particularly likely to appeal to under-18s
Hopefully, the restrictions will help reduce the body image conformity pressures that young people already face, and they may reduce the likelihood of young people deciding to get procedures that they will later regret.
These advertising restrictions align with the changes introduced by the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act 2021. The Act makes it a criminal offence to administer botulinum toxin (‘botox’) or fillers to children under 18 unless (in some cases) a registered medical practitioner gives permission (eg for medical reasons).
The Digitally Altered Body Images Bill
This Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. It could help to tackle the negative effects that heavily retouched images of celebrities, actors, and influencers can have on young people’s self-images.
The Bill would introduce a requirement for a logo to be displayed by advertisers, broadcasters and publishers on images that they publish of a human body that has been digitally altered to the point that the body (or body part) represented has been ‘fundamentally changed’.
‘Fundamentally changed’ is defined in the Bill as ‘altered in proportions to the point that it presents an unrealistic or unachievable aspirational body or body part image’. It is positive that the Bill explicitly recognises the connection between digitally altered images and audiences’ developing unrealistic expectations of body image. There may, however, be a limitation to the Bill’s influence if ‘fundamentally changed’ is interpreted to exclude more subtle alterations that audiences may not be as adept at noticing.
Are these laws enough?
This collection of upcoming rules and laws represents a step in a positive direction. However, it must be remembered that there is a vast collection of societal and individual factors that contribute to mental health issues.
Moreover, some recent legal changes seem to be going in the wrong direction. The government’s new requirement for calorie labelling on restaurant menus has been criticised as being dangerous for people suffering from eating disorders.
Body dissatisfaction and associated disorders need to be treated as serious public health issues whose mitigation should be given proper, holistic attention.
Help is always available if you are experiencing mental health difficulties. Contact Samaritans’ 24/7 helpline on 116 123.