French to crack down on binge drinking

16th October, 2014 by Simon Howland

New French legislation could see those who promote or incentivise binge drinking amongst youngsters face heavy fines and even a year in prison, but the proposals have drawn criticism for not going far enough.

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Marisol Touraine, the French Minister of Health, wants to bring in heavy penalties for binge drinking.

Marisol Touraine, the French Minister of Health, wants to impose fines of €15,000 (£12,000) and a year in prison on those who actively urge young people to “drink to drunkenness”.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Touraine made clear the governments intent to target “express drinking”, and said: “We need to end the intoxication that causes so much harm to young people.”

She added that the law would also focus on the “organisers of hazing”, or those who influence others to binge drink, and “alcohol goading on the internet”.

Under the plans, those who incite others to binge through articles and advertisements could also face fines of up to €7,500 (£6,000) and 6 months in prison.

Touraine said the new legislation would target “the festive and friendly image” of drunkenness spread by the “games or objects that promote excessive alcohol consumption”, and declared: “We must protect the youth against mercantile interests.”

According to France’s Metro News, 25.5% of 15-30 years admit to having had at least six drinks on one occasion during the past month, a practice that has led to several casualties each year as a result of ethyl comas or road accidents.

But even these heavy penalties have drawn criticism for not going far enough and being “totally vain” from Senator Corinne Bouchoux, co-author of a parliamentary report on heavy drinking.

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The penalties are focussed on binge drinking amongst France’s youth.

“Of course it is a real problem, but the government’s response is inadequate,” said Bouchoux.

In her 2012 report Bouchard advocated a stronger focus on prevention rather than penalties, stating: “We need more action in schools and colleges with all the actors because criminalisation is the only effect of heavy penalties.”

According to Bouchard, the entire educational model pertaining to drinking was in need of review: “Regularly, victims are young people who have spent two years holed up in their study’s for preparation classes.”

Bouchard proposes, for example, to approach the issue of binge drinking the same was as road safety, through a focused campaign of education and prevention.

Speaking to Metro News, Raphael Bévenot, head of prevention at the National Bureau of engineering students, said the problem with the proposals is enforcement: “The law is going in the right direction, but we will find it difficult to legislate. We must de-normalize alcohol consumption.”

Measures have already been taken in the UK to curb binge drinking in universities where the approach is focused on responsible drinking and avoids criminalisation.

According to Metro News, a study by the National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (INPE), conducted in 2013, ranked France in 12th place in Europe for occasional drunkenness.

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