Posted: Monday, 01 January 2024 16:22
French Government not in favour of endorsing Dry January
Happy New Year to all my friends throughout the universe. Today marks the beginning of January, which also marks Dry January in countries like UK as a concept for the last 10 years and followed by individual drinkers and groups in many other countries like France and perhaps some in India too- except that in France it has become a politically contentious issue with the government reluctant to promote this act of abstinence despite requests from a group of intellectuals; around 50 professors and people in similar professions have written to the government to endorse the concept and it is reluctant to oblige them.
It is important to differentiate Dry January from the Dry Day concept in a country like India, where it is dictated by law and one is not allowed to sell wine or alcohol on specified dates-for instance 26 January, 15 August and 2 October are nationally declared as Dry Days. Additionally, different dates are followed in different states as Dry Days and this varies in each state. There are common rules regarding pre-election and post-election days.
The concept of Dry January was born in 2013 in the United Kingdom, as an initiative of the Alcohol Change UK organization. (Similar to Indian Wine Day started by Indian Wine Academy on 16 November 2017 but to promote Indian wines). Dry January on the other hand, is a voluntary abstinence for the whole month to detox your system after a binge drinking December. It helps you work with a group of people in the same boat and try to kick the habit, if possible.
Dry January is at the center of a political discord in France after around 50 professors of addiction studies signed a letter urging the state to promote a month of abstinence. A group of senior academics and doctors working on addiction wrote to the French health minister to say that enough is not being done by the government to campaign against alcohol because of the health risks, and the government should support this alcohol-free month.
It was introduced in France in 2020 as Defi de Janvar– January Challenge and promoted by health charities. It has grown in popularity with more than 60% of French people reportedly desiring to try it in 2024, according to a poll conducted for the Association Addictions France. But the French state health body has not promoted it and politicians are reluctant to get onboard.
What is the concept
The senior academics and doctors believe that the government support for the initiative would be an opportunity and a strong sign that would mellow down the debate on alcohol consumption in France, the second biggest consumer of wine in the world, behind the US. The French politicians are apparently listening to the country’s wine industry that employs half a million people.
Emmanuel Macron (who has been invited as the Chief Guest at the Indian Republic Day parade on 26 January, a Dry day!) is perceived to be the most pro-alcohol French president since the Second World War. According to reports, he drinks wine daily at lunch and dinner.
The powerful French alcohol lobby argues that France is a nation that traditionally drinks in moderation, so the UK’s Dry January month of abstinence is out of step with its culture and better suited to northern European binge-drinkers. Yet health campaigners point to recent polling by the French League against Cancer, which found that 70% of French parents saw no problem in giving their teenagers alcohol (wine) during the festive season.
The anti –alcohol lobby has shown an immediate positive impact on health, including on sleep and blood pressure, and a reduced level of alcohol consumption for many months until the summer. “We want to mobilize the government because in France we know it’s important that the state gets involved with prevention.”
Amine Benyamina, president of the French Federation of the Study of Addiction is more temperate when he says, “We don’t want a country without alcohol, but a country that is very strong on spelling out the risks. The risks linked to alcohol, as the scientific literature incites us to provide, are not given in France. There is reluctance from French politicians. It’s not simply the government, it’s the whole political class in all its diversity, which does not want to tackle the problem of alcohol in France.”
France promotes a No-smoking month in November but the government is wary of launching a campaign telling people how to live for a month. It also seems to be in favour of launching a campaign on alcohol in 2024, targeting young people and pregnant women.
While Dry January can be a self- reflective time for some, for others it may prolong denial and become an excuse for binge drinking. Heavy drinkers who suddenly abstain from alcohol may also experience withdrawal symptoms like headache, fatigue, and nausea.
Krystel Lepresle, of Vin et Société, which represents the French wine industry, said it was not necessary for the government to actively back an alcohol-free month in France, because 90% of the French drank under the recommended limit of 10 glasses a week, and alcohol consumption had dropped by 60% in 60 years. The French people have managed to reconcile the pleasure of consumption with moderation, she said.
Dr. Lara Catena is the Managing Director of Catena Zapata, a highly respected winery in Argentina. She is also a medically qualified doctor who has studied at Stanford and Harvard. A great supporter of the Wine- in- Moderation concept, she poo-poos the idea of Dry January. While there is nothing wrong in some people trying it if they feel the need, she feels it is important for people to drink wine in moderation, that very much reduces the risks certainly to levels no more than one faces in real life. It is very important to keep the drinking to a measured, moderate level and she follows the dictum strictly even in her own household.
Dry January is for those who are drinking too heavily and perhaps drank themselves silly last month and want to detox their system. For most people they are like a new year’s resolution which lasts but a few days. DelWine has always recommended moderation for wine drinkers and to drink wine as a lifestyle product, preferably with meals and continues to recommend Moderate January and continue in the other months of 2024, and the years beyond.