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New advertising guidelines for cosmetic surgery from 1 July

New advertising guidelines specific to cosmetic surgery come into effect on 1 July 2023.

The new guidelines, with a strong focus on online and social media advertising, are in addition to the existing code of conduct and advertising guidelines and address the unique features of cosmetic surgery. They provide greater clarity about what is not acceptable.

Advertising must not:

  • be false, misleading or deceptive

  • offer discounts without terms and conditions

  • use testimonials

  • create unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, or

  • encourage indiscriminate use.

Additionally, from 1 July 2023:

  • medical practitioners must include clear information about their registration type and their registration number

  • clear information about risks and recovery must be easily found

  • videos and images must be used responsibly and not for entertainment

  • videos and images must not be sexualised or include gratuitous nudity

  • the use of negative body language is banned

  • cosmetic surgery advertising must be identified as adult content.

‘We’re reforming cosmetic surgery to raise standards, improve consent about surgery and raise the bar in advertising. We’re making it very clear what is not acceptable behaviour by practitioners,’ Ahpra CEO, Martin Fletcher, said.

Practitioners have three months to get familiar with the changes and to clean up their advertising in line with the guidelines.

Delia Rickard, former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Deputy Chair and now Chair of the Cosmetic Surgery Oversight Group, said this was a significant step in cleaning up this sector.

‘These developments are important for patients and mark a real turning point. The line has been drawn for practitioners about what is not acceptable,’ Ms Rickard said.

Maddison Johnstone and Michael Fraser from Operation Redress have been monitoring online advertising in the cosmetic sector for years.

‘It is important that the medical regulator took the concerns of brave whistle-blowers and patients seriously and investigated the deeply troubling practices exposed by the media.

The new Medical Board guidelines, combined with the use of software to proactively monitor advertising, are significant steps towards increasing patient safety, protecting the public and putting Australia on a path to being a leading country in regulating the cosmetic surgery sector.

‘Young people are particularly vulnerable to cosmetic procedure advertising, so these changes will contribute to protecting young people and children from exposure to advertising that is known to impact their self-esteem,’ Mr Fraser said.

Ahpra has been proactively auditing cosmetic surgery advertising since September 2022 and found high rates of non-compliance. The Medical Board has taken regulatory action where necessary. We will be continuing our audit program against the new rules from 1 July 2023. Practitioners should use this time to review their advertising and address any issues.

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