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French government rebuffs claims it is ‘anti-wine’

France's health ministry has rubbished suggestions that it plans to put stricter health warnings on wine labels or that the government will raise taxes on wine.

Speaking to decanter.com following the launch of a campaign by wine trade lobby group Vin & Societe, a spokesperson for France’s health ministry said ‘there is no truth’ to claims that a raft of new regulations are planned for the sector.

Several wine industry bodies have publicly supported Vin & Societe, which last month detailed five measures that the government is considering, including together health warnings on labels, higher tax and stronger restrictions on publicity, particularly on the internet.

‘We are not going to raise taxes,’ the health ministry spokesperson said. She said she is aware of the campaign website and added, ‘we are not going to do anything of this kind’.

Her comments follow those of French agriculture minister Stephane Le Foll, who has said at two public meetings in the past fortnight that there will be no extra tax on wine.

However, there is concern in the wine trade at the power of the France’s ‘anti-alcohol’ lobby, and also that tougher government measures could come further down the line.

Vin & Societe’s MD, Audrey Bourolleau, told decanter.com that she understands tougher health warnings on labels, as well as the Evin Law that governs alcohol publicity, are still set to be discussed as part of the government’s new cancer plan and a new national health bill.

For that reason, Vin & Societe wants the government to install an interdepartmental body to oversee alcohol policy, which would recognise wine’s contribution to French culture and the country’s economy.

‘We are keeping our mobilisation campaign,’ Bourolleau said. ‘The national health [bill] will be discussed from December until March and the Evin Law will be a major point of discussion.’

Vin & Societe’s campaign website, cequivavraimentsaoulerlesfrançais.fr, has received 250,000 unique visitors in its first two weeks.

According to the French government’s recently-published action plan on drugs and addictive substances, to run up to 2017, 8.8m people in France are regular consumers of alcohol, which means they drink on at least ten days in every 30.

The plan highlighted a rising problem of binge drinking among young people, citing a propensity for young adults to have five or six drinks in one sitting. It advocated a review of the rules around publicity for alcohol and tobacco, but fell short of offering specific detail.

Written by Chris Mercer

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