Boozing in France is not news anymore; in fact, it is now so commonplace that not doing it could now be considered as newsworthy. If you have taken a tour of the rich France plains, both in the north and south, or done a bit of reading on France, you’ve seen that it boasts a rich soil where there are vast plains filled with vineyards. Hidden in the middle of those vineyards are brewers, where some of the world’s top wine brands are made. Don’t be swayed to think that France exports all that it brews; in fact, the primary reason for cultivating vineyards was to quench the thirst of the country’s citizens. Only when the stockpile grew to an unmanageable level, were we compelled to export the extra stock over the water to your local store. So, drinking has been around for as long as we can remember.
The French have been known to down the bottle in a slow and moderate manner, the quintessential French drinking culture – until recently, that is. It is normal to see a couple order a glass of wine after food and enjoy their favorite drink in moderation, which of course aids the body’s digestive enzymes as well as having other health benefits. But there have been some worries of late, as it seems people have started to drift away from the norm, away from the responsible French drinking culture – to binge drinking.
Lawmakers have on several occasions drafted bills to keep drinking in check but this has only assisted to a certain extent, because a determined lot will always get what they want regardless of whether a law exists or not. Of the different age groups, the most affected by binge drinking are the country’s young people.
A report published by the French Society for the Study of Alcohol in March 2013 shows a worrying trend. It says that 400,000 people are now being hospitalized every year due to alcohol abuse. This is a 30% increase from the past three year’s figures. These startling numbers indicate that binge drinking is skyrocketing and we might end up losing our nation to booze. Dr. Damien LabarriÃre, a gastroenterologist in the city of Orleans, spoke to Radio Europe 1 and gave another concerning report. He gave an account of the rising number of young people drinking themselves into a stupor, who end up in the emergency room after being collected off the streets by the authorities – some staying up to two days in the hospital before they sober up.
The trend is widely reported in the media; you may have read about the fatalities which have occurred because of binge drinking. In the city of Orleans alone, there have been three separate incidents of people drowning in the Paris canal system during summer after drinking too much alcohol in the scorching hot weather. But what could be advancing all of this despite control in alcohol advertisement?
The answer lies on the internet. Though we may control the posters we plaster on our billboards and what we air on our local television stations, we have very little control over what people are accessing via the internet. Young people are engrossed in the internet nowadays. They are able to access it from their pockets 24/7 and the information it holds, both good and bad. They have seen what is happening in other countries and have defined what is cool and fun for themselves.
All is not lost though, and some cities have tried to counter the problem by imposing restrictions on alcohol sales and consumption. For example, in Lyon, shops have been banned from selling beer, wine and spirits between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. In France’s Atlantic Coastal town of La Rochelle, a ban on drinking in public areas has been imposed.
Others have sought solace in the control of how we communicate; this is in reference to the language watchdog L’Académie Francaise’s ban on the phrase “binge drinking”, suggesting the use of a more moderate term, “beuverie express”, which means “fast drinking”, instead.
But whatever the answer may be, any effort to control binge drinking is welcome; we need such an intervention before the situation gets out of hand.