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California lawmaker aims to reduce eating disorders among fashion models

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - Fashion models who want to work in California would need a doctor to attest that they are of healthy weight and not suffering from an eating disorder under a proposal announced by a state lawmaker on Monday.

The bill proposed by California state Assembly member Marc Levine follows efforts in several countries to fight anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders among models, who are relentlessly pressured to lose weight or lose work.

“The evidence of eating disorders in the modeling industry is alarming,” Levine, a Democrat who represents the Marin County suburbs of San Francisco, said in a statement on Monday.

Under his bill, which was introduced Feb. 19, modeling agencies would have to be licensed by the California Labor Commissioner, and could be fined if they hire models who do not have a physician certifying that they are healthy.

The bill, if passed, directs the state’s Department of Public Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt rules for the health of fashion models that would include periodic health checkups, nutrition consultations and medical testing.

Levine said the measure, which must pass numerous committees, both houses of the legislature and be signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown before it could take effect, would also help girls and women, who see impossibly thin models in magazines and aim to be like them.

“As a former fashion model and an eating disorder survivor, I know that this legislation is critically needed,” Nikki DuBose, a former model turned advocate, said in a statement.

Last spring, France banned excessive thinness in models, partly in response to the death in 2010 of Isabelle Caro, a 28-year-old former French fashion model who died from anorexia after posing for a photographic campaign to raise awareness about the illness.

Israel enacted a similar measure in 2013, while other countries, like Italy and Spain, rely on voluntary codes of conduct to protect models.

As many as 40 percent of fashion models may suffer from eating disorders, Levine said. These include anorexia nervosa, which leads sufferers to starve themselves; bulimia nervosa, which involves binge-eating followed by purges such as forced vomiting, consumption of laxatives or excessive exercise; and binge-eating disorder.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Diane Craft