References to Obesity in Advertisements

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05 May 2015

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh today responded to the Committee of Advertising Practice’s consultation on references to obesity in advertisements.

Although all weight loss programmes may currently advertise their services, references to obesity in advertisements can only be made for weight loss programmes where participants are placed under the direct supervision of a healthcare professional. This prevents lifestyle weight loss programmes not under the supervision of a healthcare professional from referring to obesity in their advertisements, including showing obese people. Given the recognition in public health policy of the value of weight loss programmes in tackling obesity, the committee is considering whether or not this position might now be too restrictive.

In response, RCSEd stated that as the minimum standards for the entitlement to use the term obesity in advertising have been clearly laid out in NICE guideline PH53, regulators should not be allowed to accept any advertisement which falls below these minimum standards.

RCSEd believe that the main concern when considering changes to these regulations should be the likelihood of vulnerable individuals self-referring onto these programmes without consulting a physician who could identify any eating disorders or other health issues. In addition, it was argued that, as well-known programme provides are able to attract new customers without using the term obesity in their marketing, the current regulations could not be seen as a barrier to providers who are able to demonstrate the validity of their programmes.

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