France is embracing a novel way to discourage eating disorders: Throw people in prison for employing skinny models. Under legislation passed in April, runway models and people who appear in advertisements must maintain a minimum body mass index (BMI) of 18. People who hire models under this threshold could face six months in prison and a €75,000 fine.
French officials have described the law—which will require workers to prove their weight not just at the time of a job but also for weeks afterward—as a ban on "anorexic models." But BMI (a body fat estimate based on weight and height) is a shaky basis for determining individual health. Though a BMI above 18 and below 25 is considered normal, the difference between people on the margins is small; you're not dangerously fat at a BMI of 26, nor perilously thin at 17.5. And a person can easily fluctuate between categories. Now, if a brand shoots an ad campaign and two weeks later their main model drops a few pounds, it will have to scrap the campaign.
The new law also requires airbrushed ads to come with a warning label. Additionally, anyone found guilty of running a website that promotes "excessive thinness" can be fined €100,000 or imprisoned for up to a year.