NHS Calls For A Ban On Influencer Endorsement of Diet Products

WORDS: SUSANNE NORRIS
FEATURE IMAGE: KIM KARDASHIAN VIA INSTAGRAM

Just twenty years ago, the concept of making money on the internet was exactly that: a concept. But, fast-forward to 2019 and we have people making career-worthy money from the likes of Instagram and even Twitter. ‘Influencers’ are capable of making an income solely through their online pages.

This is achieved through sponsorship deals and advertising. Detox teas, clothing ranges and teeth whitening are sold to us through seemingly perfect people on social media. We’re sold the image that we too could be like these people, simply by buying the products they use.

The issue with this is the fact we are being sold a product. Half the time, we cannot be sure whether the people in question even use these products themselves, or whether they are just plugging them as a means of making an income. Lately, celebrities and influencers have gone from writing posts on these products to adding #spon or #ad to every post where a product is featured. This is due to threats from the Advertising Standards Authority and, perhaps more surprisingly, criticism from the NHS.

Whist many can understand why companies investigating trading standards would get involved here, less can get their heads around why NHS England would get involved. But they have great reason to. Everyone from reality stars like Vicky Pattinson to music stars like Cardi B have been seen promoting a range of diet pills and detox teas respectively. And this is where the NHS come in. Their National Medical Director – Steve Powis – stated:

“Social media firms have a duty to stamp out the practice of individuals and companies using their platforms to target young people with products known to risk ill health.”

The issue here goes beyond dubious advertising practices. Rather, it calls for a need to stop the advertising of unsafe products. People are buying detox teas unaware of the side effects, such as diarrhoea, which can make them feel extremely unwell. And it can be even more extreme and tragic than this. In May 2018, a 21-year-old woman named Eloise Parry died after taking diet pills which were later found to contain Dinitrophenol. 

The point is, the effects of some of these ‘health’ products can be dangerous and even life-threatening. And, it’s the NHS who are left to deal with the issues that arise from poor health due to investing in these products. It is the NHS who have found themselves having to put time and money into educating people about the danger of these products and treating them if they decide to use them and fall ill. They understand the power of influencer and celebrity recommendations on young people and have acted accordingly to warn people of the dangers. This concern from the NHS is a message more need to become aware of, as it goes beyond advertising standards and addresses the uncomfortable reality that buying health products online can be life-ruining.