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HEALTH

French minister causes stir after claiming wine is not like other alcohols

France's agriculture minister has unleashed a torrent of criticism from addiction experts after claiming that wine, unlike other forms of alcohol, was rarely the cause of binge drinking.

French minister causes stir after claiming wine is not like other alcohols
Photo: AFP
“I don't think wine is comparable to other alcohols,” Didier Guillaume told BFM television.
   
“Alcohol addiction is a real problem, notably among young people with binge drinking and so on,” Guillaume said.
   
“It's a real problem but I've never seen, to my knowledge — unfortunately perhaps — a youngster leaving a nightclub drunk because they drank Cotes-du-Rhone.”
   
He blamed binge drinking among young people largely on spirits and mixers.
 
Didier Guillaume. Photo: AFP
 
“What blindness! Mr Guillaume, all doctors invite you to take a tour of the emergency room on a bullfighting night,” said Michel Reynaud, head of France's Addiction Action Fund.
   
“To be more precise, every day there are people with acute alcohol poisoning due to wine.”
 
   
“Me, I drink wine at lunch and dinner!” he told journalists while visiting the agricultural show in Paris last year, telling those calling for tighter controls on alcohol advertising to “give the French a break”.
   
Bernard Basset, vice president of the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction (ANPAA), said Wednesday that studies showed that 18 percent of young people get drunk on wine.
   
And 25 percent admit to getting drunk on champagne, he added, citing figures from the French Observatory of Drugs and Addiction (OFDT).
 
“Wine is alcohol like any other for getting drunk,” Basset wrote on Twitter.
 
The row comes a week after specialists attacked a new anti-addiction plan from the French government, saying it contained few concrete provisions for fighting alcoholism.
   
France has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in Europe, beaten only by Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, according to data from the World Health Organization.
 
Wine represents 58 percent of alcohol consumption in France, according to the OFDT.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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