Models in France must now submit doctors notes stating they're not too thin to work

French lawmakers have adopted a bill that makes medical certificates a must-have accessory in the fashion capitol of the world.

French court rules that fashion models need medical certificates indicating a healthy weight in order to work

Models walk in Saint Laurent's 2016 Spring/Summer ready-to-wear collection fashion show on Oct. 5, 2015 in Paris. YSL's creative director, Hedi Slimane, has been criticized in the past for hiring only very slim models. (MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

After years of speculation about France's impending ban on "super-skinny" models, lawmakers in the country have finally adopted a bill that makes medical certificates a must-have accessory in the fashion capitol of the world.

The new law, approved by French MPs on Thursday, mandates that all models must provide their employers with doctors notes confirming a healthy body weight before legally working in France.

Employers who fail to provide these health documents upon inspection can be punished for up to six months in jail and a whopping €75,000 (approximately $114,000 Cdn) fine.

Harsh as the punishment may seem, an estimated 30-000 - 40,000 people in France have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa according to French legistlator Olivier Veran – many of them teenagers. 

Eating disorders like anorexia, which has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, have long been associated with the fashion industry and its glorification of ultra-thin models.

Agencies, designers and magazines alike have also been blamed in the past for pressuring models to maintain a "sample size" zero, sometimes to the point of death.

Isabelle Caro, a French model whose emaciated image appeared in a shock Italian ad campaign, died in 2010 after suffering with anorexia for years. She was 28. (Reuters)
Concerns about the health of both models and civilians had prompted similar legislation to be rolled out in Italy, Spain and Israel before France's new law had even hit the table.

Individual publications and fashion weeks elsewhere in the world have put restrictions on underweight and underage models as well in recent years to combat the problem.

A previous (and perhaps more contentious) version of the bill France just adopted proposed that there should be a minimum Body Mass Index (BMI) for models. But, as critics pointed out at the time, a person's BMI is far from the only indicator of their general health.

"Just because someone is at a very low BMI doesn't mean that they have an eating disorder," said Claire Mysko, Director of Programs for the U.S. National Eating Disorders Association, to VOA News in April. "And just because someone's in the normal range or even in the high range of BMI doesn't mean that they don't have an eating disorder either."

Taking arguments like these into account, French MPs rejected the BMI clause and instead agreed to let doctors determine whether or not a model is too thin based on "a range of criteria, including age, gender and body shape," according to The Guardian.

Photoshop fines

While runway models have traditionally been the focus of headlines about "excessively thin" models, Deputies in France's National Assembly also agreed on Thursday to an article that pertains to digitally altered commercial photographs containing models.

Published images containing photos of models who've been touched up, either to appear smaller or larger, must bear a mention that reads "retouched photograph" as of Jan. 1. 2017.

Violating this law will result in a fine of at least €37,500 (about $57,000 Cdn), or up to 30 per cent of what was spent on the advertisement.

To put that into context, the French-based cosmetics brand L'Oreal spent $2.34 billion on ads in 2013 alone.


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