IOGT International, 30 April 2019
The Association Nationale de Prevention en Alcoologie et Adictiologie (ANPAA) recently released a report on the alcohol industry lobbying practices in France.
The ANPAA, a long-time partner of IOGT International in curbing Big Alcohol interference, reports that at the heart of alcohol industry lobbying initiatives is a strategy to position itself as an “actor of prevention” in the eyes of public authorities so that they can disseminate their own prevention messages, focusing solely on the individual responsibility of consumers. The impact of the environment on consumption (advertising, accessibility, price) is deliberately ignored, as is any proposal for binding alcohol policy measures.
While the conflict of interest at play is striking, these initiatives have paid off for Big Alcohol. Producers have been acknoweldged by the Elysée Palace in the development of the prevention policy alcohol consumption, and more recently the EESC.
The report follows the lobbying frenzy started by the alcohol industry following the Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn’s stance that scientifically, wine is like any other alcohol and alcohol is a public health hazard.
Summary findings of Big Alcohol lobbying strategies reported by ANPAA
- The President Emmanuel Macron’s disregard for the warning by the Health Minister and promoting wine culture of France.
- Big Alcohol lobby groups Wine Academy of France and Vin & société attacking the stance by the Minister of Health.
- Vin & société’s infiltration into prevention policy making.
- Alcohol industry lobbyists are invited by the Elysée to work in prevention, positioning themselves as “prevention actors”.
- Big Alcohol companies publish a “prevention plan”. This plan, while not containing any measure proposed by health actors, further provides a biased view of the reality of alcohol harm in France. The ANPAA has published a corrected version of this plan.
- The alcohol industry spreads misinformation in the form of prevention such as on potential benefits of wine for health.
- An amendment aimed in particular at extending the tax on premixed alcoholic drinks to flavored wines – products that have a great success turning young people to consume more alcohol – was passed in the Senate but rejected in the Assembly following an unfavorable opinion of the Government.
- The strategic timing of alcohol lobby groups in handing over their prevention plan just before the the government mobilization plan against addictions (Mildeca Plan) 2018-2022.
- The influence of Big Alcohol is apparent in the Mildeca Plan which fails to give a clear roadmap of government policy on the prevention of addictive behaviors, specially concerning alcohol.
- Attempts to intimidate bodies who denounce bad practices.
- Big Alcohol undermines scientific evidence on negative health effects of alcohol and attacks ANPAA for revealing the facts.
- The alcohol industry directly and indirectly transgresses the alcohol marketing regulation of Evin’s law in popular sporting events such as the Football Cup.
- Targeting the young and vulnerable with alcohol advertising in social media through influencers, again circumventing the Evin law.
- The alcohol industry has evaded binding regulations regarding labeling on alcoholic products, by submitting a self-regulating proposal.
- The European Commission was intensely lobbied by alcohol industry lobbyists to avoid rejection of the labeling proposal by the Commission (rejection would have lead to creation of a more binding document). This lead to the European Commissioner for Health renouncing to go through the legislative route even though he found the proposal “unsatisfactory”.
Conclusion from ANPAA report
The aggressive reactions of Big Alcohol to Health Minister’s (evidence-based) statements on wine, the repeated delay of the publication of the Mildeca plan or the multiple examples of violations of the Evin law in 2018 bear witness to the influence of the alcohol industry on public policies and their implementation.
Despite only limited means, civil society and the public health sector continue their efforts for alcohol prevention, risk reduction and awareness raising. The prevention campaign launched in March 2019 by Public Health France28 has the potential to help deconstruct misconceptions, and help the French reduce the risks associated with alcohol use that still ranks among the highest in the world.
© WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018:
France’s per capita alcohol use is higher than the European region – the region in the world with the highest alcohol use. Among alcohol users, per capita alcohol consumption is extremely high, especially among men.
The extremely high rates of alcohol consumption lead to epidemic levels of alcohol harm in France:
- More than 10,000 cancer deaths, annually, are alcohol attributable.
- Percentages of men suffering from alcohol use disorder and alcohol dependence are much higher than the European average.
- More than half of alcohol users between 15 and 19 years of age engage in heavy episodic alcohol consumption.
Despite rampant alcohol harm, France lacks a national action plan and existing, evidence-based policies – like the “Loi Evin” – are being undermined and weakened.