France: alcoholic drinks need health warnings

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcoholic drinks, Alcoholic beverage, Alcoholism

Too many French people are still drinking excessive amounts of
alcohol, says new government report, advising more advertising to
cut consumption and even health warnings on alcoholic drinks.

Alcohol is the second biggest cause of preventable deaths in France, according to a report published by France's Health Ministry, indirectly leading to the deaths of one in five men and one in ten women aged 45 to 55.

The report says the government must re-double its public campaign warning of the dangers of alcohol consumption.

It proposed using health warnings on alcoholic drinks in the same way they are already used on cigarette packets. All alcoholic drinks adverts in France already carry the government slogan: "Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, consume in moderation"​.

The report points out that the government spends a mere €4.5m on advertising to warn of excessive drinking, while the wine and beer industries spend €72.4m and €35m respectively to promote their products in France.

The study thrusts responsible drinking back into the public spotlight in France and will be greeted coldly by drinks makers already reeling from low consumer confidence in France.

French winemakers have already vehemently and repeatedly criticised a government public health campaign aimed at reducing the nation's alcohol intake, begun last year.

The government also gave its approval at the start of this year for a bill stating all alcoholic drinks should carry warnings for pregnant women.

The French actually drink less alcohol now than they did 40 years ago, mainly thanks to a 50 per cent drop in wine consumption since the 1960s. The number of people drinking during the day also fell five per cent between 1996 and 2003 to 39 per cent.

But, the report says France still has the sixth highest alcohol consumption levels in the world, behind Luxembourg, Hungary, Ireland, Czech Republic and Germany.

One in five French men and one in 15 French women are drinking more than the internationally recommended daily amount, set by the British Medical Association.

The problem is the view that "contrary to strong alcoholic drinks like spirits, wine and beer are not considered dangerous"​, the report says, adding that these two were considered to be "natural drinks"​ like water in some regions.

Faced with this, "the consumers concerned strongly resist any move to make them cut down their daily intake"​.

Its survey showed the vast majority of French people, more than 80 per cent, were aware of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol intake, but less than half those asked were able to name the recommended daily limit.

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