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France considers ban on anorexic fashion models

File photo of a model being helped into her garment during a show at London Fashion Week, Feb. 14, 2007. Since then, some fashion industry events and several countries have banned the use of underweight models.

Getty Images, Bruno Vincent

PARIS -- France could become the latest country to ban the use of underweight fashion models.

France's health minister says she supports a proposal that would criminalize advertising that features anorexic models.

The measure would put France, a world capital of fashion, in alignment with countries like Israel and Spain that are cracking down on the glorification of dangerously thin models.

Socialist lawmaker Olivier Veran, who is also a doctor, wants to add language to an upcoming health bill to make it illegal to employ models deemed to have an eating disorder. Modeling agencies would have to produce a medical report showing that their models have maintained a healthy mass-to-height ratio.

A second change in the law would make it a crime to glorify "excessive thinness," which would target those who run pro-anorexia websites, punishable by up to one year in prison and 10,000 euros ($10,575) in fines.

The proposed amendments are expected to be part of a health reform bill which will be presented in parliament's lower house on March 31. A previous draft bill on the same issue never got to a vote by parliament in 2008.

As many as 40,000 people are believed to suffer from anorexia in France, 90 percent of them women, according to the health ministry.

In 2007, Spain banned models from the catwalks whose body mass-to-height ratio (known as the body-mass index, or BMI) was below 18. In Israel, a law in 2013 banned underweight models.

Concerns about anorexia in the modeling industry gained widespread attention in 2010 with the death of French model Isabelle Caro at the age of 28. Caro had spoken publicly about her struggle with the eating disorder, which began at the age of 13. In an interview on the VH1 show "The Price of Beauty" shortly before her death, Caro said a fashion designer once told her she had to lose weight to be a model -- even though she only weighed 86 pounds at the time.