Why we need a tax on boob jobs?
Fifteen years ago, I had a facelift. Without VAT — as it was then — it was just about affordable.
As far as I remember, it cost around £6,000, and the only reason I could find the money to pay for it was because I’d just got a rather large advance for a book.
The facelift has stood up well, all things considered, and I’ve never regretted it. If I could turn the clock back — and if I had the money — I’d do it all over again
So the new proposals announced this week, that VAT should be applied to elective plastic surgery, wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference to my decision.
The reality is that cosmetic surgery is a luxury. And luxury goods require VAT to be paid.
So for me the question is not so much why VAT should be applied to cosmetic surgery, but why hasn’t it been applied before now?
And I wonder what the impact of having to pay an extra 20 per cent will have on other women thinking about cosmetic surgery in the future?
I wonder, particularly, about the very young girls, many of whom are only in their teens, who are considering breast augmentation.
If adding VAT to the price of cosmetic surgery persuades some of them to think twice, then good.
I’m not talking, of course, about people with gigantic noses, whose schooldays were made unbearable by the insensitive remarks and mindless bullying of their peers.
Nor am I talking about people with protruding ears for whom remedial cosmetic surgery offers a whole new future. Or the young women whose FF-cup breasts make life desperately uncomfortable.
There are many people, young and old, who suffer from genuine aesthetic problems that dominate their emotional and physical lives to such an extent that they’re eligible for cosmetic operations on the NHS. And it is absolutely right that this is so.
No, I’m talking about those very young girls who have cosmetic surgery before their bodies have even had a chance to become fully formed; before they’ve given themselves a chance to accept the figures they were born with.
Girls too young to understand that cosmetic surgery isn’t necessarily the answer to the problems and insecurities that come with adolescence.
The number of teenage girls having breast implants has doubled in the past year, with 600 of them now recorded as having their cup-size enhanced.
I’m sure they were driven, at least in part, by a desire to emulate their celebrity ‘idols’ — women such as reality TV’s Chantelle Houghton, footballer’s wife Alex Curran, and former Hollyoaks actress Gemma Atkinson.
What is the difference between my surgery and the surgery contemplated by these young girls? It’s that I was much, much older than they are.
Pro tax: Virginia believes that the more obstacles there are to delaying the decision about having major ¿ and medically unnecessary ¿ surgery, the better
I decided to have surgery when I was 50. If I wasn’t mature enough to make a decision then, I never would be. What’s more, my decision to go under the knife wasn’t made as a result of peer pressure, a desire to fit in: it was something I wanted for myself.
Most UK cosmetic surgery clinics won’t operate on girls under the age of 18 because they’re still in the process of physical development. Some surgeons will, however, especially if a parent gives consent.
If it were down to me, the age of consent for non-essential cosmetic surgery would be raised — for the simple reason that few of us, at 18, are old enough to know what we want. At that age it’s difficult to imagine how you will feel about yourself when you are older.
How many young women rush into having cosmetic surgery, only to regret their decision at a later date? Victoria Beckham famously had her breast implants removed. And only this week, Katie Price said she has ruined her appearance by going under the knife so often — she had her first breast augmentation when she was still a teenager.
Katie and Victoria are far from alone. As many as 20 per cent of women with implants choose to have them removed within eight to ten years, either because of complications — or because they decide they no longer want them.
And if that happens, they’ll face another completely unexpected expense: the cost of removing them — which may come at a time when they can’t afford it.
Surely, the more obstacles there are to delaying the decision about having major — and medically unnecessary — surgery, the better.
The fact that this new VAT ruling could increase the cost of a breast enlargement by £1,000 has to be a good thing, in that it will cause further pause for thought.
DID YOU KNOW?
As many as 20 per cent of women with implants choose to have them removed within eight to ten years, either because of complications — or because they decide they no longer want them
The reason I decided to have plastic surgery was not to look young — God knows I bang on enough about the joys of being old and how important it is to come to terms with ageing. And it certainly wasn’t done in an effort to nab a man. I’m very happy on my own, thank you very much.
But when I told friends what I was about to do, many of them advised against it, arguing that my ‘history’ was etched on face. ‘Surely you don’t want to lose all those laughter lines?’ they implored.
But the reality is that there weren’t many laughter lines in my face. There were lines, yes; but they resulted not from laughter but from having suffered from years of depression, of utter gloom.
By the age of 50, when I was starting to understand that there was more to life than misery, I was lumbered with a face that spelt despair to everyone who looked at me — myself included, when I looked in the mirror.
Small wonder I wanted to iron out at least a part of my past, or at least not advertise it to everyone who glanced at me in the street.
Following my surgery, I didn’t look like a bundle of joy, but I no longer looked like the prophet of doom — and all these years later, I’m still happy with my facelift.
But I had the benefit of age and wisdom on my side when I opted for surgery. For the thousands of young women who don’t, the addition of VAT, which will significantly increase the cost of surgery, is surely a blessing in disguise.