Israel Bans Underweight Models, But Don’t Expect America to Follow Suit

Israel's new law banning too-skinny models from appearing in advertisements went into effect yesterday. Even before Israel's law passed, both Madrid and Milan banned models with a BMI under 18.5 from their fashion weeks. In New York, however, no such strict restrictions have been issued; and according to CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, none will.
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Israel's new law banning too-skinny models from appearing in advertisements went into effect yesterday. Even before Israel's law passed, both Madrid and Milan banned models with a BMI under 18.5 from their fashion weeks. In New York, however, no such strict restrictions have been issued; and according to CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, none will.
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Israel's new law banning too-skinny models from appearing in advertisements went into effect yesterday. Under the groundbreaking law, any model with a body mass index (BMI) under 18.5 (an indicator of malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization) will be prevented from working.

Even before Israel's law passed, both Madrid and Milan banned models with a BMI under 18.5 from their fashion weeks. In New York, however, no such strict restrictions have been issued; and according to CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, none will. Kolb confirmed to WSJ that the CFDA has no plans to push for a U.S. law banning models under a certain weight or BMI. "We never had an approach of mandate or enforce," he said. "We create awareness and education."

Obviously, the CFDA hasn't just stood by and done nothing while anorexic models continue to walk runways and pose for magazines. Every year, it releases and reinforces a set of health guidelines, which, this year, inspired a new Health Initiative agreed upon by all editions of Vogue worldwide. In addition to banning models under 16, the guidelines discourage designers and magazines from using models that look unhealthy--though the effectiveness of the new guidelines, at least in terms of underage models, has been a little iffy.

One of the reasons the imposed regulations in Israel, Milan, and Madrid have been controversial is that they provide a very narrow definition of health, excluding models who may just be naturally thin. Rather than enforcing a strict ban based on stats, the CFDA, as WSJ points out, tries to educate the industry about warning signs for eating disorders and provide nutrition education and support systems for young models.

Is one method better than the other?