Concerning reports from Netherlands reveal a Big Alcohol counter-campaign to Dry January: ‘Damp January’.
Examples from other countries also reveal Big Alcohol’s efforts to sabotage the success of Dry January.

Alcohol Change UK first initiated Dry January more than 10 years ago. Essentially, the campaign is a voluntary collective action to quit alcohol for the month of January and in this way boost health and well-being.

Movendi International members spread Dry January to others countries in recent years and Movendi International has been reporting on the growing popularity of Dry January and cultural phenomenon it has become in recent years.

The popularity of the campaign has now resulted in the emergence of the concept of a ‘Damp January’. Given that the only entity to profit from such an initiative is the alcohol industry itself, the true origin of Damp January is controversial. As the words themselves convey, Damp January suggests consuming ‘less’ alcohol instead of going alcohol-free for the month of January.

Therefore, the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy (STAP) alleges that ‘Damp January’ may be a Trojan horse of the alcohol industry itself.

The idea has emerged in the Netherlands as a so-called “easier” alternative than Dry January. A popular magazine named Libelle presented this idea to the public. But Martijn Planken, campaign leader at IkPas underlined the problematic nature of the idea.

With Dry January it is very clear that you do not [consume alcohol] at all, with Damp January it is unclear what [consuming] less [alcohol] means. For some, consuming less alcohol is something completely different than for others. Because it is a gray area, it is also easy to adjust a bit. I don’t see the point in it.”

Martijn Planken, campaign leader, IkPas

Big Alcohol’s attack on Dry January

Professor Amine Benyamina, president of the French Federation for Addiction Care, describes how Damp January is carrying out the alcohol industry’s work. The language elements used by the ploy, such as the advice to “moderate” alcohol consumption instead of going alcohol-free for a month as well as emphasizing individual rather than collective responsibility calls back the alcohol industry’s own discourse. According to Bernard Basset, doctor and president of the association Addictions France, Damp January is a veritable gift from heaven to the alcohol industry.

France is one of the countries where Dry January is growing in popularity and where the alcohol industry has attempted to shut it down.

It is not without reason that Damp January is supported by alcohol producers. Damp January encourages people to adhere to French alcohol use guidelines, but don’t those recommendations apply all year round?”

Dr. Bernard Basset, president, Association Addictions France

The alcohol industry’s history with ‘Dry January’

This is of course not the first time that the alcohol industry attempted to sabotage ‘Dry January’. As reported by Movendi International, this is especially true of the campaign in France.

In 2019, French President Macron decided to stand with Big Alcohol and blocked the proposed funding for Dry January in France. Wine lobby groups too started attacking the proposed Dry January campaign even before the formal funding proposal was submitted. Big Alcohol’s letter to the Elysée on the matter worked, as President Macron announced:

… you can let it be known that there will be no Janvier Sec (Dry January)…”.

Emanuel Macron, President, France

The organizations behind Dry January in France did not give up however. France Assos Santé supported the Dry January à la française. As part of their commitment, they cited the more than 40,000 alcohol-related deaths per year in France and demanded clarity and strong commitment to protect the health of all French people through alcohol prevention and control.

Communities worldwide have the right to take action to prevent alcohol harm, denormalize alcohol, and increase alcohol-free environments. The alcohol industry’s deliberate efforts to sabotage such community efforts exposes the alcohol industry’s conflict of interest with its profit motives and the wellbeing of the wider community.

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