New laws designed to restrict alcohol sales in France are a direct result of a recent spike in what is being referred to as “le binge drinking” by French youth, the Guardian reported March 13.
The legislation — which would raise the minimum purchase age for alcohol and tobacco from 16 to 18 — was proposed in response to a 50-percent rise in the number of minors under the age of 15 hospitalized due to alcohol problems between 2004 and 2007. A government-issued report warned of “a worrying rise in massive alcohol use by young people.”
The national assembly voted to ban “open bars” that offer unlimited drinks for a single entry price. A ban on alcohol sales at service stations — considered a major source for youth drinking — between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. is also part of the new law.
Despite the rise in teenage binge drinking, France has seen a general decline in per-capita alcohol consumption from 17.7 liters of wine per person a year in 1961 to less than 9.3 liters today. Noting France’s history as a wine-producing nation, French health minister Roselyne Bachelot has called for a “reasonable, balanced approach” to alcohol control.
Bernard Quartier, president of the National Federation of Cafes, Brasseries and Discotheques, said that Bachelot has “created Prohibition” in the country. “The street is going to become the premier bistro of France,” he said.
France’s vintners and wine lobby, a traditionally powerful political force, secured compromise in the legislation that excludes wine tastings and industry fairs from the ban on open bars. The government also agreed to allow advertising of alcoholic drinks on the Internet.