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Wine industry fear over health bill

Measures to curb binge-drinking could ban wine tasting unless changes are made.

MEASURES to curb binge drinking could threaten traditional wine tastings.

The new rules, along with greater restrictions to limit the appeal of smoking to young people form part of a health bill being debated in the National Assembly.

France’s ambiguous rules regarding the sale of drinks to under-18s, which currently vary depending on bars, clubs and supermarkets, are set to be made into a simple ban.

The measures also include a ban on “open bars” where drink is free all night after a fee is paid.

Campaigners in the wine industry believe the latter could lead to a ban on wine tasting events and are urging for an exemption.

The law, put forward by Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot includes limiting publicity for sweets, making fruit juice half price during happy hours in bars, and using breathalysers to test whether a motorist is over the limit before they drive.

The law also includes wide-ranging structural reforms of the health service and many amendments are expected.

Already forty amendments have been put forward, including one from UMP member Richard Mallié calling for rules on advertising alcohol to be relaxed.

Current laws, which have seen newspapers prosecuted for articles on alcohol that do not contain warning notices, are too strict, said a spokesman for Mr Mallié.

“The aim is to be able to talk freely about wine or champagne production in a newspaper article without being accused of indirect advertising,” he added.

Other areas set to be debated include authorising advertising of alcohol on the internet, a move which Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said in October she would not oppose.

Anti-tobacco campaigner deputy Yves Bur has also added two amendments suggesting the legal age to be cigarettes be raised to 18 and that their packaging should all be made to look the same to make them less “seductive” to young smokers.

Photo: Mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppé led protests by wine industry representatives last year.
Afp/Jean Pierre Muller

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