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Germany eyes ban on plastic surgery ads targeting teens

October 16, 2019

The German government is seeking to ban plastic surgery advertising that targets young people. Berlin says promoting such procedures sends an unhelpful message.

An operation on a child with protruding ears
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/I. Wagner

In comments published on Wednesday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said advertising that "exclusively or primarily" targets minors could be banned under new legislation.

The minister said the legislation would be put to the German parliament in the next few days, stressing that such adverts "often send the wrong message."

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"The signal that our society must send to young people must be: You are okay exactly the way you are," Spahn told German newspaper Tagesspiegel.

Young people were instead being put under pressure to change their appearance through surgery, he contended.

Similar adverts were only banned if they were directed exclusively or prominently at people under the age of 14.

The new law encompasses promotional material aimed at anyone under 18 "for any form of advertising, including on social networks."

Read more: Germany plans to clamp down on advertising featuring skinny women

Spahn's amendment, which will be inserted into a planned law on measles, is scheduled to have its first reading in the German Bundestag on Friday.

The German Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery has said it is fully in favor of such a ban.

A spokesman for the Social Democrats, the junior coalition partner of Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat party — to which Spahn belongs — described the ban as "perfectly sensible."

But the spokesman, Karl Lauterbach, went even further, calling for a complete ban on all not medically necessary cosmetic surgery on young people.

Such a ban, for example, would see certain operations on young people — such as the correction of protruding ears — banned unless performed to counter loss of hearing or profound mental trauma.

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Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.