France may be about to lose its reputation as Europe’s cheapest country to drink in by dramatically increasing taxes on alcohol.

A government-appointed health watchdog makes the recommendation in a report published last week. It calls for tax increases to help cover the €10bn overrun on France’s health budget

The government also believes tax hikes on alcohol would curb alcoholism, drinking-related illnesses, and accidents.

After raising the tax on tobacco last year, which increased the price of a packet of cigarettes by 50%, and weathering the storm of public opinion, the French government is seriously considering doing the same with alcohol. Didier Jayle, head of the inter-ministerial commission on drugs and alcohol, believes that a 40% rise in alcohol prices would be necessary to change drinking behaviour.

Until now, the government has steered well clear of raising drink taxes, which currently stand at €0.03 (£0.02) on wine, because of the importance of Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Pastis, Cognac and even Kronenbourg beer to the national consciousness.

A move last year to increase the tax on a bottle of wine by five cents (€0.05) enraged more than 200 senators and MPs, including Alain Juppé, former prime minister and Mayor of Bordeaux. It was not passed.

However, alcohol-related mortality currently stands at 28 deaths per 100,000 for men and 11 for women in France. In comparison, UK figures stand at 11.1 deaths for men and 6.4 for women. Alcohol is involved in a third of all road deaths, 30% of domestic violence and 20% of industrial accidents. Smoking causes 30,000 deaths a year and alcohol causes 45,000, but the government is still reluctant to act.

Other implications include an end to the ‘Booze Cruise’ market, where 3m channel crossings are made by Britons to stock up on cheap beer, wine and spirits. According to UK broadsheet the Guardian, these trips cost the British exchequer £600m a year in lost revenues.

Written by Frances Robinson