French Authorities Advise Citizens to Put a Cork in It
France without wine? Mon Dieu – that’s blasphemy. Who would have thought that a country full of vineyards and wineries would recommend against drinking their own product? Well, France has done just that!
Last week, France’s Ministry of Health (MoH) released guidelines stating that wine – and any alcohol – can lead to cancer. This declaration is based on findings from the National Cancer Institute (INCA) in France. The MoH has, therefore, recommended that the French people stop drinking their beloved wine. How can this be? For years, medical reserarch has touted the health benefits of wine. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The MoH and INCA want citizens to forget about all previous health benefits linked to wine consumption and focus on the fact that alcohol facilitates cancers of the mouth, larynx, oesophagus, colon/rectum, and breast. And, as the MoH kindly points out, even one glass of wine a day can increase your chance of developing cancer by 168%.
“Small daily doses of alcohol are the most harmful. There is no amount, however small, which is good for you,” said Dominique Maraninchi, INCA’s president.
Good Intentions, Unanswered Questions
I know that the French government only wants what is best for its citizens. And, for a US citizen, I am thankful to the French government for taking a stand on this issue and for making me, and the rest of the world, more aware of the negative effects of wine as well as its benefits. However, the new alcohol guidelines leave many unanswered questions.
Now that the French know the negative health effects of wine, what will the government do to help citizens stop drinking alcohol? And, more importantly, will the French recognize these new findings and take the initiative to stop indulging in their favorite drink? Possibly, but this feat will be a difficult undertaking. Take cigarettes for example. In the early to mid 1900’s, smoking was nearly a national pasttime in the US and for many countries around the world. Even when the US Surgeon General reported that cigarettes were linked to cancer, people continued to smoke and many are still smoking today. But, unlike wine, there have been no health benefits linked to smoking cigarettes.
Ask a Frenchman to stop drinking wine? You may as well tell a fish to stop swimming. Wine has been a natural part of the French culture for centuries. Expecting the French to stop drinking wine immediately or even in the near future is unrealistic, especially when the French consume an average of 13 gallons of wine in a year – that’s nearly a 1 gallon jug of milk per month. For the French, and many other countries, wine has been thought of as part of everyday life, and even medicinal. Getting the French to stop doing something they know and love will no doubt be a challenge, for the idea alone challenges a vintage belief. Besides, wine is seen by many as the national drink of France. What would replace this national standard – Perrier?
What about the rest of us?
The new guidelines also leave the government in a Catch-22 situation. Now that the French government recommends against wine consumption, will they still permit the export of wine? France is a major exporter of wine, with 34% of the world wine market coming from French exports. If they do continue to export wine, it is like saying “we don’t want our citizens to drink wine, but we can sell wine to other countries who don’t know any better.”
Yet, if they do stop exporting wine, what will happen to the 2,134 acres of land used for vineyards across France? The economy in France and the rest of Europe is bad enough, take away a huge money-maker like wine, and the country may be financially worse off than before.
Now, the most important question, if the French can’t smoke (Amen to that!) and can’t drink wine, what do these poor French souls have left for indulgences? Well there’s always cheese, pate, and extramarital affairs. Vive La France!