'Non' to Dry January in France, says President Emmanuel Macron

'Non' to Dry January in France, says President Emmanuel Macron
Copyright Flickr/Rawpixel Ltd
Copyright Flickr/Rawpixel Ltd
By Alice Tidey
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'Non' to Dry January in France, says President Emmanuel Macron


When the clocks strike midnight on December 31 to usher in the new year, professionals from France's wine sector will no doubt raise a glass to President Emmanuel Macron.

That's because he declared himself against the health authorities organising the country's first Dry January campaign.

Macron made the revelation on Thursday at a meeting with winegrowers in Epernay, in the Champagne producing department of Marne. 

"The President of the Republic told us that there will be no "Dry January"," Maxime Toubart, chairman of the General Union of Champagne Makers told specialist media.

The comment came after the health agency, Santé Publique France, had stated its intention to stage such a campaign, modelled on the one taking place every year in the UK and championed by Public Health England.

The proposal had provoked the ire of the sector, leading the Association of Vine and Wine Elected Representatives (ANEV) to release a statement earlier this month calling on the government to come out against.

"Winegrowers are facing serious commercial difficulties today, particularly with the US tariffs on French wine imports and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit," it said.

"By encouraging the French to stop buying wine for a month, the government would reinforce the many concerns of the industry," it added.

It instead said that health officials should continue to concentrate on promoting a message of moderation when it comes to alcohol consumption.

Joining ANEV in breathing a sigh of relief at Macron's intervention were MPs from wine-producing regions.

Philippe Huppé, an MP for Macron's La République En Marche party (LREM) from Herault — where Languedoc-Roussillon wine is made — declared himself "happy that Emmanuel Macron is there to defend French viticulture!"

Benoit Simian, another LREM MP from Gironde — where Bordeaux wine is produced — argued that January was a "crucial month" for the sector because of all the new year ceremonies.

"I cannot imagine drinking Coca during (New Year's wishes) ceremonies!," he wrote on Twitter.

However, the French National Association of Prevention of Alcoholism and Addictions, on Friday called on the government not to cave to lobby groups.

"The goal (of Dry January) is obviously not to lead to total abstinence, but to question our consumption and become aware of the relationship between society and alcohol," it said in a statement. 

"Alcohol is, after tobacco, the product that causes the most damage (41,000 preventable deaths per year, including 15,000 cancers), so a prevention campaign on the subject is more than legitimate. 

"Associations and public health actors want to believe that public health interests will prevail over the ideological resistance of alcohol lobbies, yet so quick to want to become actors in prevention," it added.

A study from the University of Sussex and conducted with over 800 people who took part in Dry January in 2018 found that people had regained control of their drinking, had more energy, better skin and lost weight because of their month-long alcohol abstinence. They also reported drinking less months later. 


Santé Publique France, which stages a Month Without Tobacco in November to help people quit and launched a campaign earlier this year to reduce people's alcohol intake, has not commented on the presidential intervention.

It's not the first time Macron has drawn criticism from alcohol prevention and health experts for his position on wine.

He stated last year that he drinks "wine at lunch and dinner", before warning that "there is a public health scourge when young people get drunk on strong alcohols or beer, but not with wine."

His agriculture minister Didier Guillaume also landed in hot waters after admitting in January that binge-drinking, particularly among young people, was a problem before saying: "Wine isn't alcohol like the others."

"It's a real problem but I've never seen, to my knowledge — unfortunately, perhaps — a youngster leaving a nightclub drunk because they drank Côtes-du-Rhône, Crozes-Hermitage or Costières-de-Nîmes," he added.


Wine holds particular cultural significance in France. A study released on Thursday by pollster IFOP commissioned by the Wine and Society group found that 96% of the 1,004 respondents believed wine is part of the country's cultural identity and 86% thought it was integral to the French way of life.

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