One of Britain's leading authorities on eating disorders yesterday likened the fashion industry's role in the rise of eating disorders to the tobacco industry's promotion of smoking.

Bryan Lask, emeritus professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at St George's, University of London, said: "If the question is: 'Does the whole emphasis within our society on being thin, does that play a part in the development of anorexia?', then the answer is undoubtedly and absolutely 'yes'.

"The massive increase in eating disorders in the last 20 years has to be attributed to the whole issue of the pressure to be thin."

The fashion industry must take responsibility and make moves toward change, Professor Lask said. He called Madrid Fashion Week's recent decision to ban underweight models from the catwalk "brilliant", adding that it was an example other shows need to follow.

Fashion industry insiders, politicians and health professionals joined the debate last week, adding to pressure for a minimum Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18 for all models.