New Israeli law bans use of too-skinny models in ads
Israel has passed a new law banning the use of underweight models in advertising.
March 20th, 2012
11:50 AM ET

New Israeli law bans use of too-skinny models in ads

Israel has passed a law banning the use of underweight models in advertising. The legislation, known as the "Photoshop Law," also requires that agencies tell their audience if they've digitally altered pictures to make models look thinner.

"This is such a happy day for me, and it should be for everyone in the modeling business," said Israeli modeling agency owner Adi Barkan, who has been working in fashion for more than 30 years. He said he lobbied Knesset members for years to get a law like this passed.

"All over the world, 20 years ago, we saw girls who were skinny, but today we see girls who are too, too skinny," he said. "They are dying. The business only wants the skinny girls. So the girls, they stop eating. It's terrible. We must be more responsible and say to them that it doesn't have to be that way."

The new law prohibits the use of models with a body mass index of 18.5 or less, a designation based on internationally accepted measures. The figure matches parameters set by the U.S. Department of Health.

The law has no criminal consequences, said Liad Gil-Har, a Knesset spokesman. It could be enforced only through civil litigation. He offered an example by saying that the law would make it possible for parents of a 15-year-old girl suffering from anorexia to sue the makers of an advertisement if they believed their daughter was being influenced by an ad featuring an underweight model.

The law doesn't set a money amount that can be gained in court from such a suit, Gil-Har said. Lawmakers realize that it may be a long and difficult process to prove in court that a company violated the new law, but they feel that simply having the law in place will accomplish what they want: deterring advertising companies from continuing to influence Israelis with images of unhealthy-looking models as the gold standard of beauty, he said.

Gil-Har said lawmakers have spent years deciding what action to take to curb an alarming number of Israelis suffering from eating disorders. The Knesset's Research and Information Center told lawmakers that there are about 1,500 children, including teens, diagnosed with eating disorders in Israel annually. Knesset members relied on data presented to them that linked eating disorders to exposure to media images that glorify thinness.

"We think this will be enough, that no advertising company will want to violate this law," Gil-Har said. "They just won't want to take that risk."

Some modeling agencies in Israel aren't happy.

"The indexes on which the law is based are arbitrary and are not appropriate for every model. I know many models who are totally healthy girls who might be disqualified because of the law," said Eli Edri of the Roberto Models Agency in Tel Aviv, according to Haaretz. He told the newspaper that some models are naturally thin and unable to gain weight and that the new law would unfairly prevent them from getting booked for jobs.

Plus-size American supermodel Emme told CNN that she thinks the law will spur other countries to institute similar measures against showing underweight models. "I think this is fantastic because so many young women and men are suffering to look a way that is unrealistic and unhealthy," she said.

The United Kingdom, she said, has aggressively pursued advertising agencies that alter images to an extent that grossly misrepresents the photo's subject. Advertisements for Lancome featuring Julia Roberts were banned in Britain because they were overly airbrushed.

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Filed under: Israel
soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. RMJ

    As a former model, I support the law. In the industry, starving oneself/using drugs/smoking/sticking a finger down one's throat to stay a certain size to be marketable is the norm. I was a size 7-8 when I was in the business. At that size today, I would be considered to be a plus-sized model, and that is absurd.

    The law is not trying to support a pro-fat agenda, but a healthy/reasonable weight one. The law is an attempt to protect the viewing public from repeatedly being subjected to unrealistic images that falsely depict what the industry thinks we're supposed to look like. Ironically, it is also trying to protect the very models it targets. If advertisers move away from anorexic and waif-like models, too-thin young men and women will allow themselves to gain some weight to get work. I hope it works and that the US follows suit.

    March 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • OH GAWD

      Right. I hope the government proscribes certain speech, too. I mean, some things are just "bad" and should be banned for the common good, right?

      March 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • RockoT

      I think we toss around terms like 'starving' far too lightly.

      Being underweight, like being overweight, is a health problem.

      I'd like to see the law also ban overweight models, only allowing models of a healthy weight to work.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      The sizes are different today, but I agree. I can remember when the model Twiggy made thin "in" for the first time. Her charisma and ability was her selling point, not her figure back then. But Twiggy would be considered fat these days. Some women are very thin, but others are not, and that doesn't mean they are fat or ugly. Most of these agencies are clueless though: remember "A Hard Day's Night," and a modeling agency asks George Harrison if he is a Mod or a Rocker, and he answers that he is a Mocker?

      March 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      A law like in the US – NO TEETH. NO penalties, difficult to prove. SHeesh.

      Listen to all the fatties give the hooray to this one.

      "Lawmakers realize that it may be a long and difficult process to prove in court that a company violated the new law, but they feel that simply having the law in place will accomplish what they want: deterring advertising companies from continuing to influence Israelis with images of unhealthy-looking models as the gold standard of beauty, he said."

      March 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. moshe

    Like what, Cigaretts? lol thanks for being general

    March 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kreslev

    Well there goes Skeletor's Israeli modeling career...

    March 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andy

    I agree with the law, and it should be international. Most models look like they are coming oue of the WWII death camps.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Andy

    I agree with the law, and it should be international. Most models look like they are coming out of the WWII death camps.

    March 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mr. Zippy

    Yeah, well, how about banning ads with fatties (aka "plus sizes"? Those ads are sending the wrong message - "See? It's OK to be obese and to keep deluding yourself that you're beautiful."

    March 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terilyn

      Being a plus size model does not mean someone is fat. It means that they're not a size zero!!

      March 20, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sully

      Exactly. Banning anything is absurd. People come in all shapes and sizes. They should definitely ban fat people from ads too, if this is the case. Thankfully, this is just a backward country doing something stupid and it is not taking place in the USA.

      March 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      Ban thinnies, fatties, baldies, hair-dyed models, comdom models, soft drinks, McD's/BK/Wendy's, Beef, Eggs, Milk, gasoline automobiles, political ads.

      They're all bad. Why pick just at skinny people?

      March 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • yourmother

      thats actually extremely rude because large women have always been considered a symbol of beauty. its one thing to be anorexic and just not be able to lose weight.

      March 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Linz

    Good job discriminating skinny ppl...How's about a law to ban casting fat ppl on TVs and movies too.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. zzzzzz

    Dear people who are too thin... please take off your make up. You'll see immediately how unhealthy you look. If you look like the Crypt Keeper, you're too thin. Moderation is key. Eat healthy as much as possible. Eat unhealthy once a month won't kill you. But not eating at all will. I don't work for Loreal... but girls and boys – You are worth it.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Transorbital

    Well, thank goodness the Israeli Knesset is dealing with the most important issues facing their nation! Models who are too skinny – clearly an immense concern for everyone in the region. I'm sure the Palestinians having their homes bulldozed so that their land can be illegally occupied by ultranationalist Israeli settlers will sleep soundly tonight! (They'll be sleeping in a field because their house was flattened, but sleeping soundly nonetheless...)

    March 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. smb04d

    To come on here and make fun of overweight or obese people when the article is clearly about underweight models is absurd and clearly beyond me...It's called "PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY"...leave it alone!

    March 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      "Israeli modeling agency owner Adi Barkan, who has been working in fashion for more than 30 years."

      So for 30 years, he is hiring too-thin models to promote to the agencies. Boy, glad someone is really, really upset over this travesty. Isn't this kind of ironic? It's like Pelosi saying she doesn't like Obama's handouts.

      March 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Neal

    Isreal and other rich countries should enact a law banning too-skinny starving children in Africa. These countries worry about models in ads and encouraging their citizens to eat as much as they wish while tens of thousands of children in the third world die of starvation every year. Shame shame shame.

    March 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Politico

      Like, we care?

      March 20, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. john

    all this law is going to do is lead to a bunch of b.s. lawsuits.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. logic

    18.5 is the cutoff for "underweight" bmi according to standard bmi calculators, there are definitely naturally thin girls with similar bmi's who are going to be prohibited from modeling just because they are naturally fit. I think if anything, there should be a bmi calculation established for the aforementioned "too skinny." i agree eating disorders are a problem but otherwise healthy women/men shouldnt be alienated and forced to put on weight if they have no issues.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Morbus

      Thin and fit are not the same thing. A person can be thin and still out of shape, lacking muscle tone and having poor cardiovascular health.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Guy with a ride

    They need to put women with hips and boobs on the catwalk! Something real. As long as they have curves and proportions, thumbs up ladies!

    March 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ricksta

    With all the problems Israel has, you wouldn't think that skinny models would be one of the things they need to regulate, LOL.

    March 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • model

      oh really ?
      so what would you have on the agenda ? maybe they should apoint you as a member of the "knesset". you seem to know everything

      March 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
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