This appeared in The Telegraph in June looking at how drinks advertising in France, currently severely restricted, could become “almost limitless” if MPs approve wine grower-senator’s amendment, warns Claude Evin, father of landmark law on drink ads ban.
A loophole in a new law could spell the “death” of France’s strict limitations on alcohol advertising and see deaths from drink rocket, the father of the current anti-alcohol law has warned.
Claude Evin, a doctor who drew up the so-called Evin law of 1991 restricting alcohol and tobacco advertising across France, said the new amendment tabled in French parliament on Monday would give drinks companies “almost limitless” freedom to advertise their products.
“They will be able to do anything they like in terms of advertising. It will be the death of the Evin law adopted 25 years ago,” he told La Parisien.
The change has been discreetly drawn up by Gérard César, a French senator and former wine maker, and inserted into a wide-ranging economic reform bill.
The amendment states that anyone filing a complaint against a particular advertisement must prove that the person promoting the product has a personal “interest” in doing so, and this “communications operation is susceptible to be perceived by a consumer with an average attention-span”.
Mr César said the aim was simply to “make a clear distinction between communication and advertising regarding alcohol”.
“To talk about wine and its local soil in a press article is not the same as promoting alcohol”,” he said.
“Wine is a product that accompanies a meal in an agreeable way, and is associated with gastronomy” he insisted, adding that it had nothing to do with “le binge drinking”.
He said the aim was also to stop French courts condemning newspapers as soon as an article mentions wine. “We are the only country in the world with such bans,” he claimed, adding that the amendment was approved across the political spectrum in the senate.
Mr Evin said the mealy-worded text was a stealthy way of killing off any restrictions for advertising alcohol. “Given that alcohol kills 50,000 people per year (in France), can we laud its merits as if we were talking about a simple perfume? The answer, of course, is no.” he asked.
Mr Evin said that while the alcohol part of his law had been gradually “whittled away” over the past 25 years, the tobacco restrictions had, on the contrary been tightened.
“This is the powerful advertising lobby at work,” he said. According to Le Parisien, the drinks sector in France accounted for €20 billion (£14.6 billion) and 650,000 jobs in 2011.
Alcohol is the second highest cause of death after tobacco in France. Professor Michel Reynaud, head of the Action Addictions Fund, warned that alcohol abuse was a growing problem among the young.
“In hospital wards we now see youths of 20 to 25 suffering from pancreatitis or hepatitis whereas in the past these illnesses hit 50-year old drinkers.”
The Evin law outlines strict control over messages and images relating to drinks over 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume with the law stating no advertising should be targeted at young people, no advertising is allowed on television or in cinemas and no sponsorship of cultural or sports events is permitted.
It would seem that the health of France’s young is suffering like our own – and this is with their existing advertising law …….
There was further coverage too in The Guardian:
The French government is battling attempts to water down a 1991 law that imposed restrictions on alcohol advertising. Touraine said the new challenge was “disguised advertising”, citing a 2013 ruling that fined Paris Match for an article on the Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson’s deal with a celebrated French champagne house.
“So we see Mademoiselle Scarlett Johansson stretched out on a red sofa looking every bit the star she is, with a bottle in front of her on which we can see the brand label. The judges decided this was disguised advertising and should not be in a magazine, and it’s claimed this threatens France’s champagne industry,“ Touraine said. “It’s just crazy. I’m not trying to harden the law, I’m saying don’t touch it.”
She said there was a very French form of denial over the hazards of alcohol, which is believed to cause an estimated 50,000 premature deaths a year in France. Touraine, 56, whose broad portfolio in François Hollande’s Socialist government covers social affairs, health and women’s rights, said: “There’s a form of denial over this. In all my political career, I’ve never known such passion over a subject. There will be a debate about wine in parliament at 4am and you think all the MPs will be at home asleep, but no, they turn up. It’s a very French debate.”
And so it would seem the denial around alcohol isn’t restricted to the British either …….