Models walking the runway during Paris Fashion Week Models walking the runway during Paris Fashion Week Models walk the runway during the Lanvin show during Paris Fashion Week in September. (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

France bans underweight models

Country also outlaws promoting unhealthy behavior to lose weight.

France is cracking down on the use of ultra-thin fashion models, banning agents and fashion houses in the country from hiring women who are underweight.

Models would be required to prove that they have a minimum body mass index, or BMI, of 18 through a medical certificate and periodic weigh-ins.

Agency officials found violating the guidelines could be subject to a fine of more than $80,000 and six months in jail.

The World Health Organization considers anyone under a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 18.5 to be underweight (roughly 129 pounds for a model standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall). Under the new law, France becomes the second country to pass legislation that regulates the weight of models used by the fashion industry. Israel took the bold step in 2012.

The measure is part of a larger effort by France to combat anorexia in the country. A 2012 study by the London School of Economics concluded that the average BMI of European women is about 25. France had the lowest average, at 23.34, and the second largest percentage of anorexic women, at 1.42%.

Lawmakers also made it illegal to condone anorexia and said any photoshopped images that alter the physical appearance of a model for commercial purposes must make note of the fact.

Robin LawleyRobin Lawley at an event in New York City last August. (Photo: Brad Barket/Getty Images)

In the United States, the fashion industry has made an effort to include models with higher BMIs in campaigns and on catwalks. This year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue featured Robyn Lawley, the first "plus-size" model to appear in the magazine in its 51-year history.

Adi Barkan, an Israeli photographer and fashion agent who advocated the law in Israel after witnessing a model he worked with die from anorexia, told CNN he commends France for taking the initiative, and made a plea to Paris's fashion world.

"The designers have to understand that under the clothes there is a person. It's not a piece of flesh, it's not a piece of meat, there is a person. And they have to fit the clothes to the woman, not the woman to the clothes."

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