Blog: Chris Brook-CarterIt's the dock for the French paradox

Chris Brook-Carter | 30 June 2004

French paradox or not, doctors and winemakers are on a collision course in France, as the wine industry attempts to halt a decline in sales by telling consumers to drink more. It is a dangerous plan from the winemakers in a political climate dominated by health concerns over excess alcohol consumption.
The French Parliament is to vote in coming weeks on a Senate amendment that would allow an increase in advertising on billboards, radio, in magazines and other mainstream media.

However, the proposal has angered doctors groups. "What this amounts to is that we can't export all the wine we want to, so French people will have to drink it," said Alain Rigaud, president of the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction.

However, this issue is far from black or white. It is hard to imagine that wine advertising will turn France into a nation of alcoholics, and the wine industry argues that strong growth in beer and spirit sales shows that the real beneficiaries of falling wine consumption have been drinks multinationals, and not the anti-alcohol lobby.

"If you're not out there on the market, somebody else will just take your place with other products that can damage health," said one of the lawmakers.

At present the law allows advertisements to contain only factual information about a product, including its name, manufacturer, alcohol content and origin. This means any generic campaign for an AOC, like Burgundy or Bordeaux, falls foul of the law because they don't refer to a single product.

The small size of many winemakers in France means they cannot afford to advertise on their own. The argument goes that this law, as it stands, currently favours large internationals and discriminates against France’s own producers. The Senate amendment would permit a broader array of messages, slogans and images.

But France’s health lobby says France is drinking quite enough wine already – the average French person over the age of 14 drinks a quarter-bottle of wine a day. Rigaud said: "Advertising would just legitimise problem drinkers in their problem drinking."


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