Health and well-being is important for all people. It has become a priority even more so with the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately in France, people’s health is deteriorating faster during the ongoing public health crisis due to alcohol and other addictions.
The Association Addiction France together with BVA Sante released on April 8, 2021 the results of a national survey across France on the impact of the pandemic on addictions. The survey was conducted between February 15 to 24, 2021 on a nationally representative sample of 2001 French who were 15 years and above.
The survey found the following key facts:
- Nearly one in five people reported increasing alcohol use since the outbreak of the pandemic.
- However, there was a polarization in alcohol use. 21% consumed more alcohol in the past year while 20% consumed less.
- Almost one in 10 people initiated use of psychotropic drugs since the start of the pandemic.
Alcohol industry exploiting people and marketing illegally
The French people’s mental health has been declining during the pandemic. Over half of the survey respondents reported that their mental health had taken a hit during the ongoing public health crisis. The decrease in mental health and well-being was a far graver consequence than other adverse effects such as relations with loved ones, financial situation, professional life or even access to healthcare.
The pandemic has taken a toll on French people and increased stress and anxiety about the future. It is even worse for vulnerable populations. People in financial difficulty, those who lost jobs, people who have suffered addictions before and students were found to be more affected by the pandemic-related spike in addictions. Among these groups, 45% of multiple consumers increased their alcohol intake (vs. 21% on average).
The alcohol industry used this time of heightened vulnerability in people to heavily market alcohol, often as a coping tool – which is against the advice of the World Health Organization. A report by the NCD Alliance and the SPECTRUM Research Consortium exposed how the alcohol industry exploited the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis as the largest global marketing campaign.
A groundbreaking report explores the lethal interaction alcohol industry products and practices have with the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Alcohol increases the health and societal problems arising from the pandemic. For example, alcohol weakens the immune system and makes people more susceptible to coronavirus infections. And alcohol-centric social contexts have been COVID-19 super spreader events.
- Alcohol increases the burden on healthcare and emergency services which are already stretched due to the COVID-19.
- The alcohol industry exploits the pandemic to change alcohol laws to their benefit.
In France, the ‘Loi Evin’ (Evin’s law) comprehensively regulates alcohol marketing. According to this law,
- All alcoholic drinks over 1.2% alcohol by volume are considered alcoholic beverages;
- Places and media where advertising is authorised are defined;
- No alcohol advertising should target young people;
- No alcohol advertising is allowed on television or in cinemas; and
- No alcohol sponsorship of cultural or sport events is permitted.
Alcohol advertising is permitted only in the press for adults, on billboards, on radio channels (under precise conditions), at special events or places such as wine fairs or wine museums. When advertising is permitted, its content is regulated:
- Messages and images should refer only to the qualities of the products such as degree, origin, composition, means of production, patterns of consumption;
- A health message must be included on each advertisement, such as “l’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé” (the abuse of alcohol is dangerous for health).
Despite the Evin’s law, the alcohol industry markets alcohol illegally in France. The Cash Investigation report reveals several of these illegal marketing activity of the industry.
- Illegal ponsorship of the “Rock en Seine” music festival by the brewer Kronenburg;
- A Chivas-sponsored concert. The event website set up by Chivas and Pernod Ricard does not refer to the musical character of the event, a theme prohibited by the Evin’s law. But editors of the trend-prescriber magazines (Going out in Paris, Konbini, etc.) who wrote about the concert heavily marketed alcohol – indirectly and illegally – and drew links between music and alcohol;
- Illegal indirect marketing in an article on “Le bonbon” magazine covering a “foosball” evening by Pernod Ricard; and
- Oral contracts with social media influencers to promote alcohol; these can not be traced to the sponsor, or the industry.
As of recent, political struggles arose over the Evin’s Law with some members of the Senate considering weakening this successful and evidence-based public health policy that bans alcohol advertising in order to “help” the sports industry to overcome the COVID-19 crisis. If anything, the pandemic and the alcohol industry’s exploitation of people during this health crisis show that French alcohol policy should be further improved to protect people and communities.
Association Addictions France: “France – national survey on the impact of the health crisis on addictions” [Translated from French]