Anyone employing skinny, undernourished fashion models or "glorifying anorexia" faces fines and prison sentences under new laws tabled in France.

The Government gave its backing yesterday to two amendments proposed by Olivier Veran, a Socialist MP, to recent health reforms.

The first would ban modelling agencies from using any "extremely thin young women whose weight could put them in danger".

It would oblige models to provide medical certificates showing their Body Mass Index, or BMI. Any agency that took on someone whose BMI was below an as yet unspecified minimum, would face a maximum six-month prison term and a €75,000 fine ($107,326).

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"It's intolerable to promote malnutrition and to commercially exploit people who are endangering their own health," said Veran, a neurologist at the University Hospital of Grenoble.

The second amendment would make it a criminal offence to "glorify excessive skinniness" and create powers to shut down websites that "promote anorexia". Many websites claim to offer beauty tips to girls as young as 12, including starving themselves to create a 15cm "thigh gap".

Marisol Touraine, the Health Minister, said yesterday that she backed the amendments. Veran said that up to 40,000 people in France were suffering from anorexia, about 90 per cent of whom were adolescents.

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