New French laws weigh against very skinny models

PARIS • Extremely thin models and secretly airbrushed photos will soon be things of the past in France, as the authorities passed measures to protect young people from the dangers of anorexia.

A new law entered into force yesterday, compelling all models working in France to provide a doctor's note certifying that their body mass index (BMI) is not too low and that they are in overall good health.

Under a second law, to come into force in October, all pictures of models that have been altered or photoshopped will have to carry a disclaimer to that effect.

The Health Ministry said the two measures aim "to avoid the promotion of unattainable ideas of beauty and to prevent youth anorexia", as well as to protect the health of models who are especially at risk of being underweight.

The doctor's note will be valid for two years and will look particularly at a model's BMI.

A model with a reading under 18.5 is classified as underweight and liable to suffer from health problems.

BMI is calculated by weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared. The average range is generally between 18.5 and 24.9.

Employers contravening these laws could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to €75,000 (S$116,000).

Some 600,000 young people are thought to suffer from eating disorders in France, including 40,000 with anorexia.

Eating disorders are the second- most common cause of death among those aged 15 to 24, after road accidents.

The new laws follow similar measures taken in Spain in 2006, which banned models with a BMI of less than 18 from Madrid Fashion Week.

Israel has also banned agencies from employing models with a BMI of less than 18.5, as well as photoshopping.

In Italy, there is no specific law but the top agencies do not employ models with a BMI under 18.5.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 07, 2017, with the headline 'New French laws weigh against very skinny models'. Subscribe