French legislators approve health care reform targeting smoking, drinking, anorexia

Associated Press

France's lower house of Parliament approved a draft law Tuesday tackling a range of public health problems, from smoking and drinking to obesity and anorexia.

The bill passed in the National Assembly with 311 votes in favor and 241 against. The reform now goes to the Senate before a final vote in the National Assembly. The government hopes the bill, aimed at trimming public health costs, will go into effect by summer.

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The reform is "crucial to tackle the challenge of aging and the emergence of new diseases" but also to preserve France's generous health care system, Health Minister Marisol Touraine said.

One measure would make it a crime to employ anorexic models or encourage anorexia. It would forbid anyone with a body mass index below a certain level from earning money as a model. The level — based on height and weight — would be defined later by decree if the law is definitively passed.

Any modeling agency or person who pays a model below a certain body mass index would face up to six months in prison and $80,000 (75,000 euros) in fines if convicted.

The reform would also ban free refill soda fountains in restaurants in a move aimed at combatting obesity.

Another measure would require manufacturers to package their cigarettes in plain boxes by May 2016. All packs would be the same shape, size, color and typeset. Touraine argued that making the packaging less attractive would help discourage young people from starting to smoke. Smoking in cars in the presence of children would also be forbidden.

As another part of the bill, people who encourage minors to drink excessively could face a year behind bars and a $16,000 (15,000 euro) fine.