Battle of the Airbrush: Arizona Bill Targets Digitally Altered Ads

A new bill introduced in Arizona's House of Representatives would require advertisers to add a disclaimer alerting readers to photo alterations.

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Before-and-after look of photo alteration.

Has the digital alteration of print advertisements gone too far? One Arizona politician thinks so, and has introduced new legislation that would require advertisers to fully disclose the use of image modification in all their ads.

House Bill 1793 was proposed by Phoenix representative Katie Hobbs this week. The bill states that readers should be made aware of ads that utilize photo manipulation techniques — such as airbrushing out wrinkles, smoothing skin texture or slimming body types — by including this disclaimer: “Post-production techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement. When using this product, similar results may not be achieved.”

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The thinking behind the legislation is that consumers, especially teenage girls, can’t readily differentiate between what is real and faked in photos, which can lead to unrealistic expectations of beauty, as well as body image and self-esteem issues.

The bill was modeled after laws in Britain, where the Advertising Standards Authority closely monitors and reprimands companies for egregious acts of Photoshopping. No such regulatory body exists in the U.S., although there has been a national push for Congress to take up the matter. According to the Arizona Republic, the National Eating Disorders Association, among other groups, has long been in support of federal advertising regulations, but so far, no legislators have agreed to support it.

Hobbs herself says that the Arizona bill has little to no hope of passing, but that’s fine with her. “We just wanted to bring it to the table and start a discussion,” she told the Arizona Republic. “We need to bring attention to these body-image issues, especially with young girls. Girls need to know that they don’t have to look perfect.”

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