Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 January 2021
Widespread digital retouching of advertising imagery in the fashion, beauty, and other consumer industries promotes unrealistic beauty standards that have harmful effects on public health. In particular, exposure to misleading beauty imagery is linked with greater body dissatisfaction, worse mood, poorer self-esteem, and increased risk for disordered eating behaviors. Moreover, given the social, psychological, medical, and economic burden of eating disorders, there is an urgent need to address environmental risk factors and to scale up prevention efforts by increasing the regulation of digitally altered advertising imagery.
This manuscript summarizes the health research literature linking digital retouching of advertising to increased risk of eating disorders, disordered weight and appearance control behaviors, and body dissatisfaction in consumers, followed by a review of global policy initiatives designed to regulate digital retouching to reduce health harms to consumers. Next, we turn to the US legal context, reporting on findings generated through legal research via Westlaw and LexisNexis, congressional records, federal agency websites, law review articles, and Supreme Court opinions, in addition to consulting legal experts on both tax law and the First Amendment, to evaluate the viability of various policy initiatives proposed to strengthen regulation on digital retouching in the United States.
Influencing advertising practices via tax incentives combined with corporate social responsibility initiatives may be the most constitutionally feasible options for the US legal context to reduce the use of digitally alternated images of models' bodies in advertising.
Policy and corporate initiatives to curtail use of digitally altered images found to be harmful to mental and behavioral health of consumers could reduce the burden of eating disorders, disordered weight and appearance control behaviors, and body dissatisfaction and thereby improve population health in the United States.
1 Monica Anderson & Jingjing Jiang, Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018, Pew Res. Ctr. (May 31, 2018), https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018 [https://perma.cc/7Y47-WDA5].
2 Jingjing Jiang, How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions, Pew Res. Ctr. (Aug. 22, 2018), https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/08/22/how-teens-and-parents-navigate-screen-time-and-device-distractions [https://perma.cc/R7UT-T2PA].
3 Victoria J. Rideout, Ulla G. Foehr, & Donald F. Roberts, Kaiser Family Found., Generation M 2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds 2 (2010), https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/8010.pdf [https://perma.cc/3MJ5-6SKZ].
7 Kee, Eric & Farid, Hany, A Perceptual Metric for Photo Retouching, 108 PNAS 19907, 19907 (2011)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Hany Farid, Seeing Is Not Believing, IEEE Spectrum, August 2009, at 44, 44; Steven Erlanger, Point, Shoot, Retouch and Label, N.Y. Times (Dec. 2, 2009), https://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/03/fashion/03Boyer.html [https://perma.cc/LZ3G-6QGG]; Jessica Seigel, The Lash Stand, Adweek (May 29, 2012), https://www.adweek.com/digital/lash-stand-140785/ [https://perma.cc/B7W2-5538].
8 Carolyn Black Becker et al., Changing the Course of Comorbid Eating Disorders and Depression: What Is the Role of Public Health Interventions in Targeting Shared Risk Factors?, J. Eating Disorders, May 27, 2014, at 1, 7.
10 Kee & Farid, supra note 7, at 19907.
12 Brown, Ashley, Picture [Im]Perfect: Photoshop Redefining Beauty in Cosmetic Advertisements, Giving False Advertising a Run for the Money, 16 Tex. Rev. Ent. & Sports L. 87, 87 (2015)Google Scholar.
13 For systematic reviews, see generally McLean, Siân A. et al., The Role of Media Literacy in Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating: A Systematic Review, 19 Body Image 9 (2016)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Watson, Hunna J. et al., Prevention of Eating Disorders: A Systematic Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials, 49 Int'l J. Eating Disorders 833 (2016)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
16 Glenn, supra note 14, at 281-82.
17 Hemal Shroff et al., Skin Color, Cultural Capital, and Beauty Products: An Investigation of the Use of Skin Fairness Products in Mumbai, India, Frontiers Pub. Health, Jan. 23, 2018, at 1, 5.
22 See Marques, Luana et al., Comparative Prevalence, Correlates of Impairment, and Service Utilization for Eating Disorders Across US Ethnic Groups: Implications for Reducing Ethnic Disparities in Health Care Access for Eating Disorders, 44 Int'l J. Eating Disorders 412, 414-15 (2011)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
24 Hudson et al., supra note 20, at 352.
25 See Campbell, Kenisha & Peebles, Rebecka, Eating Disorders in Children and Adolescents: State of the Art Review, 134 Pediatrics 582, 585-86 (2014)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Mehler, Philip S., Medical Complications of Bulimia Nervosa and Their Treatments, 44 Int'l J. Eating Disorders 95, 95 (2011)Google ScholarPubMed; Misra, Madhusmita et al., State of the Art Systematic Review of Bone Disease in Anorexia Nervosa, 49 Int'l J. Eating Disorders 276, 277 (2016)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Mitchell, James E, Medical Comorbidity and Medical Complications Associated with Binge - Eating Disorder, 49 Int'l J. Eating Disorders 319, 320 (2016)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Norris, Mark L et al., Gastrointestinal Complications Associated with Anorexia Nervosa: A Systematic Review, 49 Int'l J. Eating Disorders 216CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Sachs, Katherine V. et al., Cardiovascular Complications of Anorexia Nervosa: A Systematic Review, 49 Int'l J. Eating Disorders 238, 239 (2016)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
29 Culbert, Kristen M. et al., Research Review: What We Have Learned About the Causes of Eating Disorders–A Synthesis of Sociocultural, Psychological, and Biological Research, 56 J. Child Psychol. & Psychiatry 1141, 1145 (2015)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Stice, Eric et al., Risk Factors That Predict Future Onset of Each DSM–5 Eating Disorder: Predictive Specificity in High-Risk Adolescent Female, 126 J. Abnormal Psychol. 38, 38 (2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
34 Am. Med. Ass'n, Body Image and Advertising to Youth H-60.928 (2011), https://policysearch.amaassn.org/policyfinder/detail/body%20image?uri=%2FAMADoc%2FHOD.xml-0-5022.xml [https://perma.cc/ZSK4-3LZG].
35 See S. Bryn Austin, A Public Health Approach to Eating Disorders Prevention: It's Time for Public Health Professionals to Take a Seat at the Table, BMC Pub. Health, Oct. 9, 2012, at 1, 2.
36 For reviews, see generally id.; Becker et al., supra note 8; Bildfell, Connor, Legislating Away Illness: Examining Efforts to Curb the Development of Eating Disorders Through Law, 26 Dalhousie J. Legal Stud. 37 (2018)Google Scholar; Krawitz, Marilyn, Beauty Is Only Photoshop Deep: Legislating Models' BMIs and Photoshopping Images, 21 J.L. & Med. 859 (2014)Google ScholarPubMed.
37 See, e.g., Bury, Belinda et al., The Effect of Digital Alteration Disclaimer Labels on Social Comparison and Body Image: Instructions and Individual Differences, 17 Body Image 136, 137 (2016)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Frederick, David A. et al., Reducing the Negative Effects of Media Exposure on Body Image: Testing the Effectiveness of Subvertising and Disclaimer Labels, 17 Body Image 171, 171 (2016)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Tiggemann, Marika et al., “Warning: This Image Has Been Digitally Altered”: The Effect of Disclaimer Labels Added to Fashion Magazine Shoots on Women's Body Dissatisfaction, 21 Body Image 107, 107-08 (2017)CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
41 Vanessa Friedman, A New Age in French — Modeling, N.Y. Times (May 8, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/08/fashion/france-laws-thin-models.html [https://perma.cc/AV8V-2L9S]; Kecia Lynn, Israel's “Photoshop Law” Goes into Effect, Big Think (Jan. 6, 2013), https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/israels-photoshop-law-goes-into-effect [https://perma.cc/3BGU-SN7T].
42 Friedman, supra note 41.
43 About ASA and CAP, ASA|CAP, https://www.asa.org.uk/about-asa-and-cap/about-regulation/about-theasa-and-cap.html [https://perma.cc/34HB-6C8Q].
47 See ASA|CAP, supra note 43.
48 See, e.g., Non-Broadcast Code, ASA|CAP, https://www.asa.org.uk/codes-and-rulings/advertising-codes/non-broadcast-code.html [https://perma.cc/SY9E-W8DJ].
49 See, e.g., ASA|CAP, supra note 43.
50 Jennifer Whitehead, Academics Call on ASA to Mark Airbrushed Ads, Campaign (Nov. 9, 2009), https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/academics-call-asa-mark-airbrushed-ads/965023 [https://perma.cc/FV48-KPKZ].
51 Mark Sweney, Twiggy's Olay Ad Banned over Airbrushing, The Guardian (Dec. 16, 2009), https://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/dec/16/twiggys-olay-ad-banned-airbrushing [https://perma.cc/7P6G-C2JJ].
52 Mark Sweney, L'oréal's Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington Ad Campaigns Banned, The Guardian (July 26, 2011), https://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jul/27/loreal-julia-roberts-ad-banned [https://perma.cc/5ZYQ-D82D].
53 Mark Sweney, Christian Dior Mascara Ad Banned for Airbrushing Natalie Portman Eyelashes, The Guardian (Oct. 23, 2012), https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/oct/24/dior-mascara-natalie-portmanad-ban [https://perma.cc/37DX-7GHC].
54 See, e.g., Lorrilard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525, 550-565 (2001) (holding Massachusetts' regulations governing outdoor and point-of-sale cigarette advertising as preempted by FCLAA and in violation of the First Amendment).
55 U.S. Const. amend. I.
56 Citizens United v. Fed. Election Comm'n, 558 U.S. 310, 339-40 (2010).
57 United States v. Roth, 354 U.S. 476, 486-93 (1957).
58 See Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S. Ct. 2218, 2226-27 (2015).
60 Id. at 2233-34 (Alito, J., concurring).
61 Cent. Hudson Gas & Elec. Corp. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 447 U.S. 557, 561-62 (1980).
62 Id. at 562-63.
63 Id. at 566.
64 Lorrilard Tobacco Co. v. Reilly, 533 U.S. 525, 533-34 (2001).
65 Id. at 535-36.
66 See id. at 561-66.
67 Pub. Health Law Ctr., The Master Settlement Agreement: An Overview 1-3 (2018), https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/MSA-Overview-2018.pdf [https://perma.cc/7XJA-R4KY].
68 Id. at 5. See also Master Settlement Agreement, Pub. Health Law Ctr. 14, 16 (1998), https://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/sites/default/files/resources/master-settlement-agreement.pdf [https://perma.cc/ZFY4-BTRC] (prohibiting advertising directed at youths and advertising on outdoor billboards).
69 Lehman v. City of Shaker Heights, 418 U.S. 298, 302-04 (1974).
72 Advert. Self-Regulatory Council, The Adverstising Industry's Process of Voluntary Self-Regulation 1 (2016), http://www.asrcreviews.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/NAD-CARU-NARB-Procedures-Final-02-01-16.pdf [https://perma.cc/Y9VF-F9U2].
74 CARU Safe Harbor Program and Requirements, Advert. Self-Reg. Council, http://www.asrcreviews.org/category/caru/web_safety [https://perma.cc/PS8V-HUM4].
75 See Jim Edwards, US Moves Toward Banning Photoshop in Cosmetic Ad Photographs, Bus. Insider (Dec. 16, 2011, 8:00 AM), https://www.businessinsider.com/us-moves-toward-banning-use-of-photoshopin-cosmetics-ads-2011-12 [https://perma.cc/59TR-T3YF].
77 See John E. Villafranco & Katherine E. Riley, So You Want to Self-Regulate? The National Advertising Division as Standard Bearer, Antitrust, Spring 2013, at 79, 80 (discussing how some NAD procedures encourage industry participation).
78 See Advert. Self-Regulatory Council, supra note 72, at 7 (outlining NAD's policy for referring claims to “an appropriate government agency for review and possible law enforcement action.”).
79 See Self-Regulation: Leadership and Support, Advert. Self-Reg. Council, http://www.asrcreviews.org/supporting-advertising-industry-self-regulation [https://perma.cc/49LK-TFUP].
80 ‘No Digital Distortion’ Mark Fact Sheet, Dove, https://aalp.unileversolutions.com/content/dam/unilever/dove/global/online_comms_/dove_no_digital_distortion-1251729.pdf [https://perma.cc/VN2F-WXBN] (outlining the scope of the company's digital retouching policy).
81 Intimates Line aerie Gets Real, Unveils “aerie Real” Spring 2014 Campaign Featuring Unretouched Models, Challenging Supermodel Standards, PR Newswire (Jan. 17, 2014, 8:30 AM), https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/intimates-line-aerie-gets-real-unveils-aerie-real-spring-2014-campaign-featuring-unretouched-models-challenging-supermodel-standards-240777281.html [https://perma.cc/7ZJN-2QZW].
82 Amanda Pena, Target's Latest Swim Campaign Promises No Airbrushing or Reshaping, HuffPost: Life (Mar. 23, 2018, 9:26 AM), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/target-swim-inclusive-sizing_n_5ab3cb9ae4b0decad047b6a3 [https://perma.cc/WFD4-APRY].
83 Kennett Werner, CVS to End Airbrushing in Ads for Its Beauty Products, NBC News (Jan. 15, 2018, 8:01 PM), https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/cvs-end-airbrushing-ads-its-beauty-products-n837846 [https://perma.cc/56LG-XEE6].
84 Suzy Strutner, Getty Images Bans Retouched Photos that Change a Model's Body Shape, HuffPost: Life (Sept. 27, 2017), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/getty-images-retouch_n_59cbdecbe4b05063fe0e84c6 [https://perma.cc/WWB8-59YZ].
85 See, e.g., Erlanger, supra note 7; Sarah Karmali, Erin Heatherton Defends Use of Photoshop, Vogue (Oct. 18, 2012), https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/erin-heatherton-defends-victorias-secret-photoshopairbrushing [https://perma.cc/84SA-CZLH].
87 Abha Bhattarai, ‘You Can See Stretch Marks’: Inside Everlane's Unapologetic Underwear Ads, Wash. Post (Apr. 6, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2018/04/03/what-everlane-gets-right-about-marketing-to-women/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.6fa793157bdc [https://perma.cc/P6FR-2RUN].
89 Truth in Adverstising, Fed. Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/truth-advertising [https://perma.cc/9NJZ-7KRV].
90 Fed. Trade Comm'n, FTC Pol'y Statement on Deception 1-2 (1983), https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements/410531/831014deceptionstmt.pdf [https://perma.cc/VB6Y-XKFQ].
91 Id. at 2.
92 Id. at 1.
94 See 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)(4)(A)(1) (2018). See also Fed. Trade Comm'n, supra note 90 at 5-6 (“A finding of materiality is also a finding that injury is likely to exist ….”).
95 § 45(a)(1).
96 Fed. Trade Commission, supra note 89.
97 FTC v. Colgate-Palmolive Co., 380 U.S. 374, 385 (1965); Am. Home Prods. Corp. v. FTC, 695 F.2d 681, 686 (3d Cir. 1982).
98 Fed. Trade Commission, supra note 89.
100 28 U.S.C. § 516 (2018).
101 A Brief Overview of the Federal Trade Commission's Investigative and Law Enforcement Authority, Fed. Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/what-we-do/enforcement-authority [https://perma.cc/XZ7P-RZ7D]; What We Do, Fed. Trade Commission, https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/what-we-do [https://perma.cc/Q8J5-B5KB].
102 See Belt, David L., The Standard for Determining “Unfair Acts or Practices” Under State Unfair Trade Practices Act, 80 Conn. B.J. 247, 249-50 (2006)Google Scholar.
103 Truth in Advertising Act of 2016, H.R. 4445, 114th Cong. (2016).
104 All Actions: H.R.4445 — 114th Congress (2015-2016), Congress.gov, https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4445/all-actions?overview=closed#tabs [https://perma.cc/3GUS-UVS9].
105 U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 1.
106 Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519, 574 (2012) (“The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”).
107 Advertising Agencies and Sales Tax: Understanding the Law, Avalara, https://avalara-stage.adobemsbasic.com/us/en/learn/whitepapers/advertising-agencies-and-sales-tax-understanding-thelaw.html [https://perma.cc/C25W-5EMT].
110 See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-407(a)(37)(U) (2019) (rendering advertising service is a “sale” for purpose of sales tax); 61 Pa. Code § 31.21 (2019).
111 Pena, supra note 82.
112 Tax, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).
114 I.R.C. § 162(a) (2018).
115 § 162(j).
116 See Rev. Rul. 92-80, 1992-2 C.B. 57.
117 See Handelman v. Comm'r, 509 F.2d 1067 (2d Cir. 1975) (cost of entertaining potential clients not deductible).
118 See Regan v. Taxation with Representation, 461 U.S. 540, 548-51 (1983).
119 Strutner, supra note 84.
120 Werner, supra note 83.
122 Certification Program Overview, asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program, https://asthmaandallergyfriendly.com/USA/about-the-certification-program [https://perma.cc/J6FY-NSY4].
123 See, e.g., Greg Bishop, Discussion Begins in Springfield About Raising Illinois' Gas Tax, Ill. News Network (May 9, 2017), https://www.ilnews.org/news/state_politics/discussion-begins-in-springfield-about-raising-illinois-gas-tax/article_67bed1cc-3504-11e7-9857-f356c86a8270.html [https://perma.cc/7NRF-FHL7].
124 See Suzanne Kearns, Will Your Advertising Efforts Trigger Nexus?, Avalara (June 20, 2016), https://www.avalara.com/us/en/blog/2016/06/will-your-advertising-efforts-trigger-nexus.html [https://perma.cc/YU54-YECN].
125 Cal. Rev. & Tax. Code § 6203(c)(5)(B) (2019).
126 Va. Code Ann. § 58.1-612(C) (2018).
127 Excise, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014).
128 Excise Tax on Indoor Tanning Services Audit Technique Guide, Internal Revenue Serv. 3 (2013), https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/excisetaxindoortanning.pdf [https://perma.cc/3HYC-GTTX].
130 See I.R.C. § 162(a) (2018).
131 See Kearns, supra note 124.
132 Chana Joffe-Walt, Most People Are Supposed to Pay This Tax. Almost Nobody Actually Pays It., npr (Apr. 16, 2013, 3:55 AM), https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2013/04/16/177384487/most-people-are-supposed-to-pay-this-tax [https://perma.cc/P3GU-429Z].
133 See id.
134 Interview with Joshua Wease, Director, Mich. State Univ. Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, in East Lansing, Mich. (Oct. 19, 2017).
135 See Kee & Farid, supra note 7, at 19909-12.
136 See Joffe-Walt, supra note 132.
137 Interview with Joshua Wease, supra note 134.
138 See generally Seiler, Stephan et al., The Impact of Soda Taxes: Pass-through, Tax Avoidance, and Nutritional Effects (Stanford Univ. Graduate Sch. of Bus., Research Paper No. 19-12, 2019)Google Scholar (finding no significant reduction in calorie and sugar intake).
140 See Mari A. Schaefer, Soda Tax or No, Americans Aren't Drinking as Many Sugary Beverages, Study Finds, Phila. Inquirer (Nov. 13, 2017), http://www2.philly.com/philly/health/sugar-drinks-calories-beverage-tax-20171114.html [https://perma.cc/6TTE-E5L7].
141 See Ciciora, supra note 139.
142 Ana Radelat, Revenue-Hungry States Set Sights on Taxing Ads, AdAge (Feb. 25, 2013), https://adage.com/article/news/revenue-hungry-states-set-sights-taxing-ads/239989/ [https://perma.cc/C3E4-WSMA].
143 144 Cong. Rec. 12,319 (1998).
144 See U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.
145 Comptroller of the Treasury v. Wynne, 135 S. Ct. 1787, 1797-98 (2014).
146 See Dean Milk Co. v. City of Madison, 340 U.S. 349, 356 (1951).
147 Police Dept. of Chi. v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92, 95 (1972).
148 Cf. Minneapolis Star & Tribune Co. v. Minn. Comm'r of Revenue, 460 U.S. 575, 581 (1983).
149 See Lombard, Benjamin, Note, First Amendment Limits on the Use of Taxes to Subsidize Selectively the Media, 78 Cornell L. Rev. 106, 117 (1992)Google Scholar.
150 Ark. Writers' Project, Inc. v. Ragland, 481 U.S. 221, 231 (1987) (“In order to justify such differential taxation, the State must show that its regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”).
151 Minneapolis Star, 460 U.S. at 591.
152 Id. at 592.
153 Ragland, 481 U.S. at 229-30.
154 Pitt News v. Pappert, 379 F.3d 96, 111 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Minneapolis Star, 460 U.S. at 582, 585).
155 461 U.S. 540, 550 (1983).
156 Id. at 549-50 (citing Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 316 (1980)).
157 Lombard, supra note 149, at 132.
158 500 U.S. 173, 203 (1991).
159 See id. at 207-08 (Blackmun, J., dissenting).
160 H. 3892, 191th Gen. Court. (Ma. 2019).
161 Am. Med. Ass'n, supra note 34.
163 Dominique Mosbergen, Since Lingerie Brand Aerie Ditched Photoshopped Ads, Sales Have Surged, HuffPost: Life (May 19, 2016, 1:37 AM), https://www.huffpost.com/entry/aerie-photoshop-sales-growth-2016_n_573d35d6e4b0646cbeec260c [https://perma.cc/7BAE-3LBU].
164 Edward Helmore, Clipped Wings: Victoria's Secret Sales Slip as Shoppers Become Less Daring, The Guardian (July 22, 2018, 6:00 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jul/22/victorias-secret-pink-sales-stock-down [https://perma.cc/L8Z7-N8FU].
165 Werner, supra note 83.
170 About USGBC, supra note 121.
171 Certification Program Overview, supra note 122.