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MPs ‘to legalise mentioning wine’

Current laws mean filmmakers, journalists and others risk prosecution for referring to alcohol – that should now change

MEDIA who talk about wines and other alcoholic drinks should no longer risk prosecution for illegal advertising, after MPs agreed on a modification of the Evin law.

The wine growing lobby welcomed the move but health campaigners slammed it saying alcohol addiction is becoming an ‘epidemic’ in France (scroll down for an online test to check whether your own drinking levels are safe).

France’s strict Evin law on alcohol advertising, dating from 1991, defines advertising so vaguely that courts have found increasingly that “any mention of wine, in journalistic, cultural, artistic, entertainment, or tourism contexts can now be condemned”, according to Senator Gérard César who put forward the change.

Under the proposal, which Mr César made as an amendment to the Macron consumer law currently going through parliament, there will be a clearly-defined difference between giving information about alcohol and advertising it.

The government had asked MPs to throw the amendment out, but they decided, at a committee stage before a second MPs’ reading next week, to keep it.

In future, assuming there is no further change – and the government is understood to wish to fast-track the Macron law through next week - it will be necessary to prove some direct commercial link between the ‘advertiser’ and a specific product. There will have to be:

• An intention to advertise
• Mention of a specific alcoholic product
• Advertising taking place as part of an activity specifically dedicated to this
• An interest (financial or otherwise) to be gained by the advertiser
• Reason to think the general public would consider it an advert.

Health Minister Marisol Touraine had said MPs should refuse the change, saying it was not the job of the Macron law to “unravel health policies”, however there was strong pressure from a wine growers’ lobby among MPs.

The move was condemned by campaigners against alcohol abuse, including national alcoholism charity ANPAA which called it a “real danger, destroying the Evin law from within” and warned it could allow “indirect advertising, by celebrities for example”.

Alcohol addiction expert professor Claude Bernard said no form of alcohol advertising should be allowed. It was “an epidemic that we don’t talk about – a taboo”, he said.

However Socialist MP Gilles Savary said the amendment “in no way calls into question the spirit or the letter of the Evin law”. He said it merely aimed, bearing in mind wine’s importance to France’s culture and economy, “to avoid it becoming risky for a journalist, filmmaker or novelist to mention our wines”.

Mr César also states in his amendment that the aim is to avoid prosecution of people running wine-related tourism or to harm such important projects as the new Cité des civilisations et du vin in Bordeaux, the Cité des vins de Bourgogne at Beaune or the Cité de la gastronomie at Dijon.

Under the Evin law, advertising alcohol is only allowed in certain contexts, including posters, radio and the written press. It must present the products in a factual way without overt “incitement to consume them” and it must be accompanied by the wording “abuse of alcohol is dangerous to health”.

• ARE YOU drinking at safe levels, or risking your health? An online test offered by the official Alcohol Info Service allows you to evaluate your habits by replying to 12 questions. The results indicate whether you are at low risk, at risk or perhaps already dependent on alcohol. It offers tools for defining objectives for cutting down, if necessary.

Click here for the test: Alcohol Info Service.

Note that the test refers to ‘standard glasses’ of alcohol. This corresponds to, for example, a small (25cl) glass of ordinary beer, a bar measure of spirit or a small bar glass of wine (just 10cl – meaning a bottle contains seven and a half glasses).

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