France is almost synonymous with wine. For millennia, the fame of French wine-making has been surpassed only by the fame of French wine-drinking. However, now, the French government is trying to change the drinking part through a new public campaign.
Santé Publique France (SPF), the nation’s public health ministry is pushing citizens to cut down on their consumption of the fruit of the vine. SPF is urging drinkers to consume no more than two glasses of wine per day, not to drink every day, and not exceed ten glasses (barely two bottles! Sacrebleu! Zut alorsù! Mon Dieu!) per week.
“Our goal is to enable the French to make the informed choice of consuming less risk to their health,” said SBF Chief Executive Officer François Bourdillon in a statement. Without denying the ‘pleasure’ dimension that can be associated with the consumption of alcohol, we must make known the risks associated with alcohol, disseminate the new consumption benchmarks to all, and to invite the French to think about their consumption.”
Notably the announcement focused specifically on wine with little mention of beer or spirits. The epistemology is a paradigm shift for the French who often think of drinking wine as not drinking. In January, French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume famously told BFM, “I don’t think wine is comparable to other alcohols.”
Still, this week French health officials warned that 24% of French people currently exceed their new alcohol consumption benchmarks. Citing a Public Health Barometer France study, the agency also noted that young people consume “more intensely” than older people, but older people consume more regularly.
SPF warned that heavy drinking increases the risk of diseases including cerebral hemorrhages, cancers, and hypertension.
To hammer home their point, a full on media campaign is underway. Television, digital, radio, social media, and print spots will run from March 26 through April 14.
Of course, not everyone is happy about this. The reception from the French people has been lukewarm and the reception from French winemakers was even less colder.
In an interview with La Depche Jérôme Villaret, general delegate of Languedoc AC winemakers, argued that the campaign was actually harmful. He pointed out that many other studies show French people drinking responsibly. He added that the stat about 24% of the French over-drinking means that 76% of the French do not not have unhealthy drinking problems. Finally, he posited that the SPF initiative will not actually reach over-drinkers.
“This kind of publicity campaign upsets the moderate consumer,” he added. “To us, these kinds of studies just make consumers feel guilty.”
The reaction is not a surprise. A July 2018 SPF attempt to put warning labels on wine was branded as “as an attack on the soul of France.”