France's Senate has approved a plan to legalise alcoholic drinks advertising on the internet, but producers remain concerned about the country's powerful anti-alcohol lobby.

Senators this week voted to amend France's Loi Evin, which has governed alcohol publicity since 1991, to include the internet.

Online publicity for alcoholic drinks has been effectively banned in France for more than a year after a campaigns group successfully argued that, because the Loi Evin makes no provision for the internet, publicity via the internet is illegal.

Heineken was forced to suspend its French website following the ruling, which was secured by the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction in February 2008. 

Policy makers, industry representatives and health groups have spent months attempting to find a solution to the impasse.

The Senate has approved online publicity for alcohol, but websites aimed at young people and physical activity will remain off limits.

"This is not a victory," said Julien Pichoff, co-founder of the Vin & Internet group, which was created to fight for drinks firms' rights on the internet. "We rather see it as a perfectly normal upgrade of the harsh Evin law," he told just-drinks today (18 June).

He added: "Anti-alcohol lobbies are still waging a total war against alcohol in France. They seem to have forgotten about prevention and education, focusing on prohibition alone."

Once approved by the Senate, a law must still be signed off by the president.

Documents leaked to just-drinks last summer show that original proposals were for much tougher restrictions on internet ads for alcohol.