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Macron accused of failing to back January abstinence campaign

President of France Emmanuel Macron has been accused by abstinence lobbyists of failing to back an alcohol-free campaign for January.

The news follows an open letter written in Le Monde, where addiction specialists outlined the need for “strong support from public authorities for Dry January”.

Doctors wrote that their “confidence in the government to carry out a coherent and determined policy against alcoholism is seriously compromised.”

Dubbed Défi de Janvier or the January Challenge, the month-long abstinence challenge is now in its fifth year in France, with the French Society of Public Health (SFSP) and its members supporting the initiative.

No public support

Held without any public support from government, the doctors claim the challenge “allows you to give your body and your wallet a break”, and to take stock of the place alcohol plays in your daily life.

They also said that the health benefits of the break are “proven’ and include “weight loss, better sleep, increased energy, better concentration and, ultimately, better controlled alcohol consumption”.

In addition, they said the negative consequences of alcohol consumption were felt by “the entire population” and not “as sometimes perceived, just dependent people”.

Nearly a quarter of those aged 18 to 75 years old have consumption that “exceeds the benchmarks promoted by Public Health France since 2017”, including more than ten glasses of alcohol per week and not having days off from drinking.

It said: “The undeniable success of Dry January and its positive media coverage demonstrate a change in the collectively maintained relationship with alcohol consumption.

“In 2024, more than sixty associations, federations, learned societies, patient groups, local authorities will be involved in the operation.”

Alcohol decline

Macron and other politicians have not backed the campaign, with agricultural minister Marc Fesneau stating the decline in alcohol consumption across the country – around 70% in the last 50 years and still falling 10% year-on-year – meant such a campaign was unnecessary.

He said that he didn’t think the “French need to be given lessons by anyone” and “People are fed up with being told what to eat, what to drink, how to travel. There’s a way of life that also deserves respect”.

Former health minister Aurélien Rousseau said he was “very suspicious” of Dry January and “telling people how to live their lives”.

But supporters of the campaign highlighted that France is still Europe’s fourth biggest alcohol consumer, and is responsible for around 40,000 deaths annually.

Last summer, Macron was pictured downing a bottle of Corona at a rugby match, and is often seen with a glass of wine in hand, and actively encourages support for the French wine industry.

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