Note: This post originally appeared on Stanford Medicine’s award-winning medical blog, Scope. This is being archived here for professional posterity.
Advertisers in Israel will soon face tougher scrutiny about promoting too-thin models thanks to a new law banning underweight models from advertisements. The law takes aim at lowering the rate of eating disorders by targeting the fashion industry, often accused of idealizing extreme thinness, and also requires a clear, readable disclaimer on ads that have been digitally manipulated to make models appear thinner.
For models, the law requires that they provide medical reports at every photo shoot, dating back no more than three months, to prove that they are not malnourished according to standards set by the World Health Organization.
In an Associated Press article, Liad Gil-Har, assistant to the law’s sponsor, Rachel Adato, MD, explains, “We want to break the illusion that the model we see is real.”
The ink on this law is still drying – it passed late last night – but commendations and criticisms are already rolling in. Adi Barkan, one of Israel’s top model agents, has become an advocate for the law, citing that in his 30-year career he has seen women getting thinner and sicker. He told the AP that they “look like dead girls.” However, critics of the law argue that the ban focuses too much on a number and not the overall health of models, citing that some models are naturally much thinner.
Eating disorders severely affect an estimated 2 percent of Israeli girls between the ages of 14 and 18. In the United States, the National Eating Disorders Association estimates in their fact sheet(.pdf) that 10 million women and 1 million men suffer from eating disorders—approximately 3.5 percent of the population.