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Joint CAP and BCAP consultation on banning cosmetic interventions advertising to under-18s

Posted on 02 October 2020

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing and enforcing the UK's non-broadcast marketing communications (known as the CAP Code), and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP), the regulatory body responsible for regulating the UK's broadcast advertisements (under the BCAP Code), have announced a joint public consultation setting out proposals for new rules prohibiting advertising cosmetic interventions to under-18s.

The proposals form part of a broader package of measures that CAP and BCAP are working on to evaluate "the potential harm relating to body image from advertising and the impact on consumers’ mental health". For example, in January 2020, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK's independent advertising regulator, issued an enforcement notice in relation to beauty salons illegally advertising botox.

In this context, and driven by concerns in relation to the possible harms caused by exposure to adverts for cosmetic interventions, the consultation considers and suggests appropriate regulatory action to restrict, by age, the scheduling, placement and targeting of such adverts. This is particularly pressing given the current lacunae whereby advertising cosmetic interventions to those under 18 is not restricted, except in respect of medical doctors.

What do the proposed new rules say?

The consultation proposes new rules for the CAP Code (Section 12: Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products) and the BCAP Code (Section 32: Scheduling):

  • s.12 CAP Code – proposed new rule to impose "an age-specific placement restriction on non-broadcast advertising for cosmetic interventions"; and
  • s.32 BCAP Code – proposed new rule to impose "an age-specific scheduling restriction broadcast advertising for cosmetic interventions".

The consultation provides a non-exhaustive list of "cosmetic interventions" (a legally undefined term) to which the proposed new rules would apply, including (amongst others) breast augmentation, rhinoplasty (nose reshaping), rhytidectomy (face lift), dermal fillers and hair restoration surgery.

Are cosmetic products included?

No. "Cosmetic Products" (as defined in Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009) fall outside the proposed new rules. This includes creams, lotions, face masks, hair products and sun-less tanning products as well as weight loss or dieting products or regimes.

What's next?

Following the closure of the consultation on 22 October 2020, CAP and BCAP will consider the responses and publish an evaluation on the ASA website together with supplementary guidance (see previous guidance on the marketing of surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures). 

This should offer stakeholders clarification as to the distinction between "cosmetic interventions" and "cosmetic products". Stakeholders should be mindful of the proposed advertising restrictions in relation to cosmetic interventions, as well as future restrictions which BCAP and CAP may propose in relation to various cosmetic products (as seems likely).

We recommend that those involved in advertising "cosmetic interventions", whether online media, social media platforms, advertising agencies, broadcasters, influencers and other actors, consider whether their current advertising operations would be captured by the proposed new rules, and if so, to what extent changes to their agreements, operations, and procedures may be required to ensure compliance.

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