Could the cost of alcohol in France be about to shoot up?

The price of alcohol in France could be about to go up after French doctors called on the country's health minister to raise taxes on alcohol to fund an awareness campaign, warning the public about the dangers of over-consumption and addiction.

Could the cost of alcohol in France be about to shoot up?
Photo: AFP
This week a group of French doctors and medical professors sent a letter to the country's health minister Agnès Buzyn, asking her to increase taxes on alcohol and raise awareness of the dangers of drinking too much. 
According to the signatories, the French government's current approach to preventing over-consumption is “ridiculous”. 
In 2019 the social security budget must include “a tax on alcoholic beverages” proportional to the degree needed “to finance care” for alcohol-related illnesses and “a tax on advertising expenses, including on the Internet – to finance the prevention”, the letter states. 
At the moment, wine is taxed at 20 percent in France and spirits are taxed at 60 percent, bringing in €4 billion for the government every year. 
However, on the other side of the coin, alcohol-related illnesses end up costing France's health system €120 billion every year, according to reports. 

On top of causing 49,000 annual deaths directly as a result of consumption, alcohol is the second biggest cause of cancer after smoking in France, the leading cause of death in 15-30-year-olds and the main cause of early onset dementia.
Wine is not special, it's as dangerous as any alcohol, warn French doctors
Photo: AFP
Alcohol is also involved in more than half of all violence against women and children.
However, unsurprisingly, alcohol industry lobbies consider the current tax quite sufficient.
According to them, taxes are revenues for the state and are not used to finance awareness campaigns.

“The problem with continually rising taxes is that it doesn’t help prevention, and it’s just lining the pockets of the state,” Alexis Capitant, representative of alcoholic drinks producers’ association, Avec Moderation! told Franceinfo. “It penalises consumers’ spending power, without any proven health benefits.”
If Buzyn backs the doctors, this will be the second time in a year the health minister has come head to head with the country's alcohol industry. 
“The wine industry today claims wine is different from other types of alcohol,” she told France 2. “In terms of public health, it is exactly the same thing to drink wine, beer, vodka, whiskey, there is zero difference.
“French people have been told wine is the safe option, that it will bring benefits that other spirits won't. That's wrong. Scientifically, wine is alcohol like any other.” 
Doctors and academics came out in support of Buzyn. 
High spirits: France mulls massive tax hike on strong liquor
But suggesting wine should be treated like any other kind of alcohol in a country that producers the most wine in the world and whose folk are the second biggest drinkers of the tipple in the world was always going to have people spluttering into their glasses.
Indeed even her boss, President Emmanuel Macron came out against his minister's notion that when it comes to health wine was just an alcohol like any other.
In dismissing the idea that he would toughen the existing laws surrounding advertising and alcohol, called the “Loi Evin”, Macron said he had wine every lunch and dinner time.
“There is a blight to public health when young people get drunk at an accelerated speed with alcohol or beer, but it is not the case with wine,” said Macron who said he wouldn't be “annoying the French” with any changes to the law.
Whether this latest effort from the country's doctors will have any effect remains to be seen. 

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Cold snap ‘could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent’

A rare cold snap that froze vineyards across much of France this month could see harvest yields drop by around a third this year, France's national agriculture observatory said on Thursday.

Cold snap 'could slash French wine harvest by 30 percent'
A winemaker checks whether there is life in the buds of his vineyard in Le Landreau, near Nantes in western France, on April 12th, following several nights of frost. Photo: Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Winemakers were forced to light fires and candles among their vines as nighttime temperatures plunged after weeks of unseasonably warm weather that had spurred early budding.

Scores of vulnerable fruit and vegetable orchards were also hit in what Agriculture Minister Julien Denormandie called “probably the greatest agricultural catastrophe of the beginning of the 21st century.”

IN PICTURES: French vineyards ablaze in bid to ward off frosts

The government has promised more than €1 billion in aid for destroyed grapes and other crops.

Based on reported losses so far, the damage could result in up to 15 million fewer hectolitres of wine, a drop of 28 to 30 percent from the average yields over the past five years, the FranceAgriMer agency said.

That would represent €1.5 to €2 billion of lost revenue for the sector, Ygor Gibelind, head of the agency’s wine division, said by videoconference.

It would also roughly coincide with the tally from France’s FNSEA agriculture union.

Prime Minister Jean Castex vowed during a visit to damaged fields in southern France last Saturday that the emergency aid would be made available in the coming days to help farmers cope with the “exceptional situation.”

READ ALSO: ‘We’ve lost at least 70,000 bottles’ – French winemakers count the cost of late frosts