Page last updated at 11:57 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 12:57 UK

Ban airbrushed ads, say Lib Dems

Girls laughing
The Lib Dems say girls and young women are under pressure

Airbrushing should be banned in advertisements aimed at children to tackle "body image pressure", say the Liberal Democrats.

Altering photos to make them look better means children are subjected to "completely unattainable images", said front-bencher Jo Swinson.

The party also wants cosmetic surgery adverts to give their success rates.

The Advertising Standards Authority said they received only a "small handful" of complaints on the issue.

The Liberal Democrats, Britain's third largest political party, have put forward measures aimed at protecting women and girls from pressure about their weight, and to promote healthy living.

Female friendly

Ms Swinson said airbrushing should be banned in advertising aimed at the under 16s and should be clearly flagged up in adverts aimed at adults.

The party also says body image and "media literacy" should be taught in schools and more sports activities offered to stop teenage girls dropping out of exercise.

The focus on women's appearance has got out of hand
Jo Swinson

Among other proposals are for success rates to be included on cosmetic surgery adverts and for local sports centres to be made more "female friendly" by being cleaner and safer.

Ms Swinson said young girls in particular were under increasing pressure due to "completely unattainable images that no-one can live up to in real life".

"The focus on women's appearance has got out of hand - no-one really has perfect skin, perfect hair and a perfect figure, but women and young girls increasingly feel that nothing less than perfect will do," she said.

"Liberal Democrats believe in the freedom of companies to advertise but we also believe in the freedom of young people to develop their self-esteem and to be as comfortable as possible with their bodies.

"They shouldn't constantly feel the need to measure up to a very narrow range of digitally manipulated shapes and sizes."

Few complaints

The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons has raised concerns about some of the adverts used by cosmetic surgery clinics - including the use of financial incentives to undergo surgery.

President Douglas McGeorge has said he was particularly concerned about "younger vulnerable readers of magazines who are being targeted very heavily".

A spokesman for the Advertising Standards Authority said airbrushing was not an issue it received many complaints about.

If images had been altered to the extent they were misleading, that was when the ASA would step in, he said.

"We don't get a lot of complaints about it," he said.

"Consumers know there has been alteration in some of the images, maybe that is why consumer complaints are quite low."

But he added that the ASA would respond to complaints which were drawn to its attention.

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