France Cancels 'Dry January' Plans
Even wine-loving French President Emmanuel Macron was reportedly against the initiative.
France is known around the world for its wine—and not the non-alcoholic kind—so the idea that the French government would run a "Dry January" campaign to begin with seems counterintuitive. But thankfully for both wine producers and wine drinkers, the country's wine-loving President Emmanuel Macron—whose presidential palace has a 14,000-bottle wine cellar—reportedly stepped in to help officially put this alcohol abstinence campaign on ice like a bottle of bubbly.
On Wednesday, Macron's office refused to comment on his stance to the AFP, but the wine industry site Vitisphere provided a pretty definitive quote from Maxime Toubart—chairman of the Champagne winegrowers' association and co-chairman of the Champagne marketing board—after he had lunch with Macron last week. "The President assured us that there would be no Dry January," he said. "You can let people know that there will be no ‘Dry January,' he told us."
According to The Times, initially, the national health agency Sante Publique France had indicated plans to hold a Dry January campaign as soon as 2020. But Health Minister Agnes Buzyn has apparently stepped back from that assertion, being quoted as saying that a "campaign is being developed … but that's not necessarily the format we'll decide on." Conveniently, the meeting to further discuss the plan—whatever it may be—is now scheduled for February.
It's easy to understand both side's concerns: The French National Association of Prevention of Alcoholism and Addictions claims that alcohol is responsible for 41,000 "avoidable deaths" every year in France, a country of 67 million people; but about half a million people are employed by the French wine industry, which is facing enough hardship as is thanks to U.S. tariffs and Brexit uncertainty. Plus, The Times reports that French wine consumption is already down 28.4 percent over the past 20 years.
Meanwhile, though France's campaign would be modeled after what's been billed as a successful British initiative, legitimate concerns exist about how effective stunts like Dry January actually are. "It's as though you tell drivers to go at 30 m.p.h. for one month of the year and as fast as they like the rest of the time," Christophe Château, communications director for the Interprofessional Committee of Bordeaux Wines, was quoted as saying. "We fight binge-drinking and total abstinence and call for reasonable drinking all year long."