In a piece for the Guardian the journalist Simon Jenkins has argued that the state should leave people alone regarding alcohol consumption.
The article ends with a flourish. ‘France has the best government guidance on alcohol consumption. It has none.’ Unfortunately, this statement has been incorrect for about three decades.
In fact, the Comité français d’éducation pour la santé (which, in 2002, became the Institut national de prévention et d’éducation pour la santé), a state-funded organisation, has for years (since 1984 to be more precise) run a public health advertising campaign warning of the dangers of excessive drinking. Its slogan goes: ‘One drink is fine… but with three drinks, hello the damage.’
In 1999 it ran another public health advertising campaign. This time it said: ‘Aujourd’hui, dans notre pays, personne ne semble boire plus de trois verres d’alcool par jour. Heureusement, car au-delà, les risques d’avoir un cancer augmentent considérablement.’ (‘Today in our country, nobody seems to drink more than three glasses of alcohol a day, which is a good thing, because beyond that amount the risks of having cancer rise considerably.’)
This same public health institute has also published a guide saying that people usually should not drink more than three glasses of alcohol a day on a regular basis.
Conclusion of the story? Even in France, if something seems too good to be true, it could well be too good to be true.