ASA cracks down on illegal Botox ads posted on social media

Under Rule 12.12 of the Committee of Advertising Practice, Botox injections are categorised as prescription-only medicines, which cannot be advertised to the public

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), enforced by the ASA, is cracking down on botulinum toxin injection adverts posted on social media.

More commonly known as Botox, Vistabel or Dysport, the injectables are categorised as prescription-only medicines (POMs) and, according to Rule 12.12 of the CAP Code and the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (HMRs), cannot be advertised to the public.

This applies even if the POM is advertised by a registered medical professional.

The enforcement will apply to all promotional material of botulinum toxin injections marketed to UK customers, but not to dermal or cosmetic fillers, which are not categorised as POMs.

This includes paid-for ads, non-paid-for marketing posts and influencer marketing; however, ads aimed only at healthcare professionals will be exempt.

Companies have until 31 January to review their social media accounts before the ASA is expected to take targeted action.

The guidelines:

Today there are more than 6.6 million posts using #botox on Instagram // Image: via Instagram @jordonio

  • Remove direct references to Botox or other POMs. This includes names such as ‘Beautytox’ and ‘Beautox’, where the obvious reference is to Botox.
    • This includes references in images and hashtags e.g. #botox.
    • This covers all promotional marketing, such as offering ‘Botox parties’ and ‘Botox treatment’ as a competition prize in a sale package.

  • Do not substitute direct references to POMs with indirect phrases that can only refer to a POM such as ‘wrinkle relaxing injections’. This is indirect promotion of a POM, and just as much of a problem.
  • Be aware the ASA considers that a reference to ‘anti-wrinkle injections alongside a price that relates to POMs will be seen as an ad for that POM.
  • Avoid references to treating medical conditions in a way that could indicate the promotion of a POM, for example ‘injections for excessive sweating’. If you offer non-POM treatments, the company could instead refer to ‘treatments for excessive sweating’ or similar.

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