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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soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. THAT'S Sofa King What!

    Politico, if you think 'Heroin Chic" is beautiful, you're probably spiking yourself, too.

    March 20, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. model

    wow, i"m in shock from all your comments. many young teenage models have eating disorders and come to starvation and death. so many times i heared the casting director tell a 15yr old girl whos only 43 kg , to loose weight !! about 5-6 kg and them come back !!! this young girls have no confidence and they will do anything it takes to succeed in the modeling buissness. you are all big heroes to talk negatively about this law, you didn't have to watch as your close friend die from anorexia :(((((( i just wish this law had come sooner and maybe just maybe we could save many lives and many girls

    March 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • The B

      I agree with you. My daughter was a model, and she is a natural size 1...her agent told her that she had to lose wight to get better gigs. She said "I'm not dying for this" and walked away. It is shameful that what amounts to a concentration camp survivor is considered the object of beauty in the industry.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • minnie

      This is discrimination. Some people are naturally skinny and can't gain weight. Stop blaming other people or punishing society for a problem that someone creates for themselves. If someone has an eating disorder they should seek help. Why do laws have to be passed to prevent someone else's weakness? Btw. America. I think anorexia/bulimia is less of a problem than sedentary lifestyle +overeating.

      March 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ilk

    lol the revenge of fat israelis. its the collective kibbutz mentality, they want to regulate and control other people's lives and bodies.. did i say lol? nah, it's sad.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. joe

    Sorry skinny models, the government has decided that fat girls will be the new beautiful. If you wish, I will take you in.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Primal

    Who gets to decide. What a joke.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Big Al

    Israeli women are hot beyond belief. They also make incredible girlfriends. Bar Rafaeli is just one example. Sabra babes absolutely rock!

    March 20, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. jim

    No fat chicks!!

    March 20, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dan Jones

    I love it... And I mean that.. It is high time that healthy is attractive and advertised to be so. So many of these advertisers and agencies use and destroy young people for their personal gain. Once again Israel leads the way in responsible civil government.

    March 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Lee

    Kinda wonder if they're going to pass a law disallowing overweight people in ads too. Or perhaps ban them from movies as well. After all we don't want our children to follow in their footsteps either. But then again Israeli's have been telling others what to do for years....at least if those others are Palestinians.

    March 20, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Ana

    Finally a counry is looking around and realizing that having girls stick-thin everywhere around them influences the teenagers and others with a negative outlook on what they have to look like and whats "pretty"

    March 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. April

    For those of you lauding this measure because those models are "skinny", "unhealthy", and "not real women", I have on thing to say to you:

    Up yours.

    I'm 32 years old and my BMI is less than 18.5. I've been that way my WHOLE LIFE. My favorite foods are eggs, anything dairy, anything fried, and chocolate. I don't really work out because I'm too lazy.

    You can't judge people you haven't even seen by a number. I am just a much a "real woman" as any of you.

    March 20, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Valerie

      Amen! I am 20.0 and have always been slender too. I eat right, but also eat what I want and I am athletic. But that doesn't matter, I have still ALWAYS been thin.........ignore the haters, they are just JEALOUS. Just like ALWAYS.

      March 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      They are not trying to make natually thing girls eat more; they are trying to get those in the fashion industry who take naturally thin models and telling them to stop trying to make them diet down to an unnatual weight for photgraphic purposes.
      When an agent tells a girl to lose 10 pounds on a naturally thin frame, there is something wrong with that industry.
      My daughter went through that.
      She's thirty and has my bone structure, but she is even taller than I. Am, so even though we weigh the same, she hovers between a size 1 and a 2...having her lose 10 pounds would have been devastating to her health.
      I am glad you have a natually low BMI; imagine having your boss tell you you have to lose 10 pounds or you won't be paid.
      That is the thinking behind this, not any predjudice for thin women.

      March 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Todd in DC

      You are missing the point. Your BMI may be normal for you, but it is below normal for most people. For every person who is naturally below 18.5, there are 100 more who are trying to get that light using unhealthy methods.

      Your BMI is not typical, and fashion industries try to make your BMI seem like an attainable goal.

      March 21, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. models mom

    This is great....kids are exposed to so much pressure with everything these days....my girls are both models (not talking Barbazan but one of the top in the world) when my oldest walked in Mercedes Benz Fashion week when she was 8 years old it was her first experience seeing many naked or barely dressed women models running around....she looked at me and said "I don't want to look that skinny" and I said you don't ever have to...most of the girls are dying to eat a sandwich. My girls are healthy athletic musical and smart....that is what I deem as important ...what makes them happy. As my oldest is now pre-teen and starting to develop, the girls her age who she works with are getting thinner and thinner and she is more of an athletic build. She still books work, but the high fashion world is getting harder and harder and soon they will start asking for more than height and size....weight, bust, waist, hips....and I happy she has put away some college money and is more interested in acting now that modeling.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Street soldier

    @@@april if you were a guy i would say up mine! Why? Because im who i am! Anorexia is a sickness period! And if these young women are going to go in that direction then sooner or later they are going to need help. Im a male and a father as well as gay and i would not stand by and watch my daughter get worse so instead of saying up yours maybe you should take a good look at yourself! These girls who model are a majority un healthy, and some are even on illegal drugs so its up yours? Come on april open your eyes ok, this industry is plagued with ,multiple issues! Good bye for now.

    March 20, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Superman

    That is not me trolling @ 10:44 someones screwing around

    March 20, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Andrew

    Sorry, I do not like making love to a skeleton

    March 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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