The link between high fashion, body image and eating disorders on French catwalks may lead to a ban on super-skinny models.

France's government is likely to back a bill being discussed in Paris banning excessively thin fashion models as well as potentially fining the modelling agency or fashion house that hires them and sending their agents to jail, Health Minister Marisol Touraine said on Monday.

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

The union representing fashion agencies opposes the ban, arguing that regulating a model's waist line will take a toll on the agencies' bottom line. 

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Under the proposed legislation, any model who wants to work has to have a body mass index (a type of height to weight ratio) of at least 18 and would be subject to regular weight checks. Health Minister Marisol Touraine says the ban would protect young women who see models as the ideal female form. Plus, many models in France are still in their teens.

So, a woman who is 5-foot-7 would have to weigh at least 121 pounds. The normal weight BMI range is around 18.5 to 25. 

Fines, jail time

The law would enforce fines of up to $79,000 US for any breaches, with up to six months in jail for any staff involved, French Socialist Party legislator Olivier Veran, who wrote the amendments, told newspaper Le Parisien.

FASHION SKINNY MODELS

A very thin model walks the runway at the Rosa Cha fashion show in New York. (Diane Bondareff/Associated Press)

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 and forums that encourage eating disorders.

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.

Some 30,000-40,000 people in France suffer from anorexia, most of them teenagers, said Veran, who is a doctor.

In 2013, designer Hedi Slimane was chastised for casting shockingly thin male models at an Yves Saint Laurent show in paris. It was not immediately clear whether France's proposed legislation would apply to male models as well. 

With files from Reuters