MP Isaac-Sibille, of the MoDem party in France, has expressed her commitment to put an alcohol floor price on the agenda for 2024. The MP proposes to add this amendment to the 2024 Social Security Financing Bill to put a minimum price for alcohol.
This measure would essentially link the cost of an alcoholic beverage with its alcohol content, ensuring that it does not fall below a specified price point.
The minimum price is expected to protect public health and the wine industry in the country. The Interministerial Mission for the Fight against Drugs and Addictive Behaviour (MIDELCA) supports the alcohol floor price. According to MIDELCA, applying a minimum price of €0.5 per alcohol unit reduces household alcohol purchases by 15%.
The minimum price would also reduce cancer mortality caused by alcohol by 22%.
Among all OECD countries France has the fourth highest levels of alcohol per capita consumption. Alcohol causes 41,000 avoidable deaths in France everywhere.
The economic cost of France’s alcohol burden far outweigh government revenue from alcohol
The report found that the social costs of alcohol amounted to €102 billion in France in 2019.
For comparison, the social costs of tobacco were €156 billion and the social costs of illicit drugs were €7.7 billion. All these figures are from 2019.
External costs represent the bulk of the social costs of alcohol harm. This explains the differences between tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs, due to the mortality differential.
In 2019 France,
- 73,189 people died due to tobacco
- 41,080 people died due to alcohol, and
- 1,230 people died due to illicit drugs.
To calculate the monetary value of lives lost, by agreement the value of lost life is estimated to be €115,000.
The French government received €4 billion and €13 billion respectively from the taxes on alcohol and tobacco.
According to the ODTF report, France’s government loses more money due to lives lost and spending on dealing with massive alcohol and tobacco harm than it gains from taxes.
A global overview found that the economic costs of alcohol amount to 1306 Int$ per adult. This means alcohol costs 2.6% of the GDP on average per country, globally.
About one-third of costs (38.8%) were incurred through direct costs, while the majority of costs were due to losses in productivity (61.2%).
As a consequence, the findings underscore and reiterate the message given by international organizations to reduce the use of alcohol.
French public unaware of links between alcohol and disease
Recently, France’s National Cancer Institute, in partnership with Santé Publique France, released the results of the 4th Cancer Barometer for 2023. This Barometer is conducted every five years and provides an insight into the attitudes and behaviors of the French people concerning cancer. This year’s results indicate that the French public feels well-informed about cancer.
Nevertheless, perceptions of risk factors, particularly avoidable risk factors, are not always based on scientific knowledge. For instance, people in France tend to cite psychological factors, such as stress and traumatic experiences as risk factors for cancer, even though scientific evidence is lacking.
The Barometer also highlights a cognitive dissonance between the perception of cancer risk exposure by the individual due to their risk factor behavior and the real risk.
- For example, people who smoke tobacco place themselves at less risk than non-smokers.
- People who consume alcohol cite alcohol less spontaneously as a cancer risk factor than people who do not use alcohol.
Misconceptions about cancer on the rise among the French
The data also reveal that some misconceptions persist or even increase, compared to the previous edition of the Cancer Barometer.
- For instance, around half of the people believe that playing sports helps clear the lungs of tobacco.
- Daily alcohol consumers consider themselves more informed about the cancer risks linked with alcohol use than people who do not consume alcohol.
- The link between alcohol and cancer is underestimated, especially among alcohol consumers.
- Only half of the French public is aware that one glass of alcohol per day increases the risk of cancer.
- Around a quarter of the population believes that consuming small amounts of wine reduces the risk of cancer.
The lack of awareness of the link between cancer and alcohol is not unique to France.
A 2018 review of 32 studies examining ordinary people’s awareness of alcohol as a risk factor for cancer in 16 countries showed that awareness appears to be low internationally.
France’s high alcohol mortality requires urgent alcohol policy action
Inserm released a collective expert opinion on the alcohol problem in France on June 4, 2021. Inserm is a French public research organization dedicated to health. The report first presents current statistics about the French alcohol problem.
- 41,000 French people died due to alcohol in 2015. This amounts to 7% alcohol-related mortality out of the 580,000 total deaths in that year, making alcohol the second largest cause of preventable death.
- Out of the 41,000 alcohol deaths,
- 16,000 deaths were due to cancer,
- 9,900 deaths were due to cardiovascular disease,
- 6800 deaths were due to digestive diseases,
- 5400 deaths were due to external causes such as accidents or injury, and
- 3000 deaths were due to another disease including mental health issues and behavioral disorders.
The potential of alcohol policy action in France
A modeling study of France’s obesity and alcohol harm trends was conducted in 2021. It found two possible scenarios for the country over the next decade.
- If the current trends continue in France by 2030:
- Obesity will increase from 17.8% to 27.3% among men and increase from 19.3% to 31.3% among women.
- Alcohol use will be at 52.5 units of alcohol per week for men on average and 35 units for women.
- This would lead to,
- 73,000 new cases of cirrhosis,
- 55,000 new cases of liver cancer,
- 61,000 new cases of other chronic liver diseases,
- 425,000 new cases of coronary heart disease, and
- 550,000 strokes.
2. However, if
- 1% per year reduction in Body Mass Index, and
- 5% per year reduction in alcohol use is achieved, over the next decade, France will save,
- 16,000 people from cirrhosis,
- 9,000 people from liver cancer, and
- 13,000 people from chronic liver diseases.
These findings were presented at the European Congress on Obesity from May 10 to 13, 2021.
These findings are particularly important as they highlight the severity of the alcohol burden as well as an impending crisis in France. The alcohol burden is only on the rise due to the products and practices of the alcohol industry.
But the findings also clearly show the potential of alcohol policy solutions. Alcohol policy improvements – such as the porposed alcohol floor price – can protect the health and well-being of thousands of people in France over the next decade.