Dozens of health organisations, including psychologists, anti-addiction experts and patient advocates, have officially launched ‘dry January’ in France, mirroring the campaign launched by Alcohol Change UK in 2013.
But dry January has opened up a new fault line in France’s increasingly complicated relationship with wine and alcohol in general.
News of the campaign has not gone down well in some parts of French high society.
More than 40 figures, including chefs and writers, criticised the concept as an ‘Anglo-Saxon and puritan obsession’ in an open letter published by Le Figaro newspaper in December.
‘This initiative dismays me,’ wrote Philippe Claudet, lead author of the article.
He said it was another example of French drinkers being made to feel guilty ‘each time [they] caress the sides of a glass before bringing it to [their] lips’.
Debate over dry January in France escalated in November when it was reported that president Emmanuel Macron opposed the idea.
Macron has not commented publicly, but French wine news site Vitisphere reported that he had assured Champagne producers that he would not back a dry January campaign.
France’s health ministry has so far not endorsed the campaign for 2020.
Organisers of first French dry January campaign say that a month of abstinence can help people to lose weight, sleep better and save money, among other health benefits.
Health campaigners and leading doctors have repeatedly highlighted alcohol-related illness in France in recent years and called for tougher regulation, which has led to fierce battles with wine industry groups, in particular.
France’s national academy of medicine said in 2019 that alcohol was responsible for 41,000 deaths per year in the country.
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