French teenagers: thumbs down to 'boiretrop' anti-drinking campaign

  • Wednesday 6 August 2008

The French government’s x-rated anti-binge drinking campaign has backfired – if the reactions of French teenagers are anything to go by.

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The campaign, launched last month, features a video of an initially innocent drinking session on a beach ending in lurid violence with a drowing, rape, a fight, vomiting and a man collapsing in a coma.

Reactions from teenagers fall into two categories: ‘I haven’t seen it and don’t care’, and ‘I have seen it and still don’t care’.

Some felt it might have been better to send a positive message.

‘It’s funny at the beginning but then I didn’t think much of it,’ said an 18-year-old student. ‘Alcohol doesn’t make those problems, people do.’

A group of students in their 20s thought the video was unlikely to change habits.

‘It will shock the 11- and 12-year-olds, but the 14-year-olds are already drinking,’ said one.

A group of younger teen drinkers in a Bordeaux skatepark bore this out. ‘We smoke, we drink, we have sex, we have problems, what can I say?’ said a 14-year-old, pointing to an empty vodka bottle.

On YouTube the main reaction to the clip has been demands to know the name of the soundtrack - given as ‘A coisa ta bacana’ by Brazilian composer Silvano Michelino - and frustration at the fact it can’t be downloaded.

The Minister for Health, Roselyne Bachelot, said the primary aim of the campaign was educative. She has also proposed a raft of new legislation, due to be implemented next year, aimed at combating French binge drinking.

Government attempts at shock tactics are invariably ham-fisted. In the 1980s the UK government responded to a surge in heroin use with a television and poster campaign featuring a wasted youth with the caption, 'Heroin screws you up.'

Dozens of posters went missing as the boy in them became a teenage pin-up. Within months 'heroin chic' appeared on the catwalks.

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