France likely to ban overly skinny models

PARIS - France's government is likely to back a bill banning excessively thin fashion models as well as potentially fining the modelling agency or fashion house that hires them and sending the agents to jail, the health minister said on Monday.

Style-conscious France, with its fashion and luxury industries worth tens of billions of euros, would join Italy, Spain and Israel which all adopted laws against overly thin models on catwalks or in advertising campaigns in early 2013.

"It's important for fashion models to say that they need to eat well and take care of their health, especially for young women who look to the models as an aesthetic ideal," Health Minister Marisol Touraine told BFM TV on Monday.

With major health legislation coming up for debate in parliament on March 17, she said the Socialist government was likely to back two amendments relating to models' weight.

The law would enforce regular weight checks and fines of up to €75,000 (S$110,360) in any breaches, with up to six months in jail for staff involved, Socialist lawmaker Olivier Veran, who wrote the amendments, told Le Parisien.

Models would have to present a medical certificate showing a body mass index (BMI) of at least 18, about 55kg for a height of 1.75m, before being hired for a job and for a few weeks afterwards, he said.

The bill's amendments also propose penalties for anything made public that could be seen as encouraging extreme thinness, notably pro-anorexia websites that glorify unhealthy lifestyles.

Dr Veran, who is also a neurologist, told French daily Le Parisien: "It's intolerable to promote malnutrition and to commercially exploit people who are endangering their own health.

"A level of acceptable body mass index should be set and enforced. Websites encouraging young girls to lose weight should also be banned. Some of these sites tell pre-teenage girls they should have a gap of 15cm between their thighs, or give tips on how to survive on as little food as possible."

About 30,000 to 40,000 people in France suffer from anorexia, most of them teenagers, he said.

In 2007, Isabelle Caro, an anorexic 28-year-old former French fashion model, died after posing for a photographic campaign to raise awareness about the illness.