French doctors angry afterwine lobby wins ad deal

14th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 14 (AFP) - Campaigners against alcohol abuse were up in arms Thursday after the French parliament voted in favour of a law which will ease the tight restrictions on advertising wine and possibly other drinks.

PARIS, Oct 14 (AFP) - Campaigners against alcohol abuse were up in arms Thursday after the French parliament voted in favour of a law which will ease the tight restrictions on advertising wine and possibly other drinks.  

Under pressure from the powerful wine lobby, the National Assembly on Wednesday evening passed an amendment to a rural affairs bill which would give producers the right to promote quality wines by emphasising their taste, nose and overall image.   

Since 1991 French wine-growers have been bound by the so-called Evin law which strictly controls all publicity for alcoholic drinks, but a collapse in sales has led to a noisy campaign for wine to be exempted as a matter of vital national interest.  

Though the new clause does not specifically mention wine, it is aimed at "products benefiting from a label of origin or a geographical indication," for which - if the law is passed - advertising can "include references relative to the qualitative chacteristics of the product."  

Critics accused the centre-right government of President Jacques Chirac of abandoning a pledge to clamp down on alcohol abuse and of opening the door for producers of other drinks - including beer, vodka and whisky - to get round the advertising restrictions.  

Under the European Union's single market, any drink clearly linked to a geographical region - such as Finnish vodka, Scotch or Irish whiskey or Belgian beer - should be able to benefit from the same dispensation and be promoted with much more freedom.  

"The adoption of this amendment as part of a catch-all law with no link to public health is shockingly irresponsible. It opens the door for the powerful whiskey-producing lobby," said the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism (ANPAA.)  

Opponents of the measure said its wording is so vague that it could be used to justify types of advertising long considered taboo, such as the use of attractive females and young people to encourage consumption.  

"You only to have to think of the imagination of the advertisers to realise how they are going to rush into this opportunity," said deputy Claude Evin who as Socialist health minister was responsible for the 1991 law.  

Wednesday's amendment was passed despite the objections of Chirac's government, which was however reluctant to force a showdown with deputies from wine-producing regions. The opposition Socialists were also divided, with several voting in favour.  

France's wine industry, which directly employs some 160,000 people and supports many more, is reeling from a steep fall in exports caused by the growing popularity of new wines from Australia and Chile, combined with a historic decline in domestic consumption.  

Wine-growers are furious that their product is associated by the Evin law with the noxious effects of alcoholism and complain that they are unable to promote its true qualities. In February thousands demonstrated after a poster campaign for Burgundy wines was banned because it bore the image of a woman.   

The left-wing newspaper Liberation Thursday accused the government of sending out confused messages on alcohol, failing to fight the amendment in the National Assembly just weeks after publicly advocating a new label on wine-bottles to warn pregnant women of possible side-effects.  

"Alcoholism is a real curse, much more widespread and devastating than people realise. The Evin law is an attempt to limit the damage, not to institute a ban. Weakening the law could be seen as literally criminal," it said.  

The amendment must now go back before the upper house, the Senate, which earlier voted in favour of an even more far-ranging measure. Under its proposal - which was moderated by the National Assembly - advertisements for wine could have included references to its "sensory and organ-stimulating characteristics."



Subject: French News

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