Reality show prompts stricter laws for cosmetic surgery for Australian teens

A politician in Australia was so disturbed by learning that a teenage reality television show contestant had endured surgery to have her breasts enlarged, that he plans to change the laws governing cosmetic surgery and other body altering procedures.

New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma has introduced regulations that will require a referral from a doctor to a cosmetic surgeon before any procedure can be carried out.

Any teen wanting such surgery will in future also have to undergo counseling, obtain parental permission and have a one-month "cooling-off period" before having such an operation.

Iemma says as the father of a young daughter he is concerned about the over-obsession with body image and believes a stronger message needs to reach young women that they are valued for who they are, not what they look like.

Under sweeping changes aimed at clamping down on the cosmetic surgery industry, teens will be banned from having Botox or collagen injections and the State Government is planning to introduce regulations making it more difficult for people under 18 to undergo purely cosmetic procedures.

The intervention comes as reports suggest increasing numbers of teenagers, some as young as 15, are appearing in cosmetic-surgery clinics across Sydney, requesting, breast implants, liposuction and Botox and collagen injections, along with nose changes.

Mr Iemma says serious debate was needed about whether cosmetic surgery was appropriate for teenagers and most Sydney surgeons agree the trend is on the rise.

According to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, 326,000 cosmetic procedures in 2004 were on teenagers and they included 13,000 ear pinnings (otoplasty), almost 52,000 nose reshapings (rhinoplasty), nearly 4000 breast implants and 3000 liposuction procedures.

Teenagers in Sydney can expect to pay as much as $10,000 for breast implants or between $4000 and $7000 for nose jobs and many surgeons are concerned at the trend, which they believe is driven by "airbrushed'' teenagers in magazines and reality shows.

Schoolgirls it seems often arrive at clinics with photos of celebrities they wish to resemble and many believe cosmetic surgery would resolve their problems of low self-esteem and school bullying.

Surgeons from the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons say most reputable doctors would not perform cosmetic surgery on teenagers, other than otoplasty and rhinoplasty but admit there are less reputable members of the profession who would do so.

All agree that the numbers of teenagers booked for consultations for cosmetic surgery procedures had risen from one a month five years ago to one a week and requests ranged from bigger breasts and liposuction to Botox and collagen, some from girls as young as 13.

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