Clare Chambers on Advertisements for Cosmetic Surgery and Beauty Practices

This is the third in a series of posts about whether advertisements for cosmetic surgery and other beauty practices should be banned. Here Clare Chambers, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, gives her thoughts on this question. If you would like to contribute to this discussion please email your response to Jan Kandiyali.

Would you be in favour of banning all advertisements for non-invasive beauty treatments and/or cosmetic surgery?
Certainly for cosmetic surgery, and I was a signatory to the original letter to that effect from the UK Feminista campaign. See

If you are not in favour of banning all advertisements would you be in favour of banning some - for instance for certain types of procedures?
As for the non-invasive treatments: I generally dislike them, and would be happy if they were not advertised, but I think it would be difficult to construct a sound defence of a ban for them without banning adverts for a great many beauty products. I would be very happy to see a large reduction in the number of beauty adverts, but I think a ban would have other dangers (free speech type concerns).

If so can you explain why for some and not all and how you would determine which should be advertised?
The relevant test for me would be the level of harm or risk they entail for the person undergoing them. And of course all adverts should be factually correct. A good change would be to require adverts to include lists of side effects, as drug advertising has in the USA.

Would you differentiate depending on where adverts were placed; for instance would you accept adverts in women's magazines where the intended audience is adult women, but not in public places where they would be seen by children?
That sounds plausible.

Alternatively do you think that any banning advertisements would be wrong and why?


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