Drinks Producers in the Dock As French Anti Alcohol Lobby Shows Teeth

Heineken, Moët and a French newspaper have all been judged in breach of strict French laws on alcohol advertising.

In the last two months Heineken, Moët and a French newspaper have all been judged in breach of strict French laws on alcohol advertising.


The French anti-alcohol promotion lobby has gone from strength to strength in the last two months, winning three judgements against Moët Chandon, Heineken and a French newspaper for an editorial on Champagne.


"What we know for sure is that we cannot rely on self-regulation by producers," says Patrick Elineau of ANPAA (Association Nationale de Prevention en Alcoologie et Addictologie), describing the motivation for the groups recent legal activity.


The most recent judgement, dated January 16, 2008, was brought by ANPAA against Moët Chandon for a publicity campaign it ran in 2003 featuring a pink bottle on a black background and the words, La Nuit est Rose (Night in Pink).


The ads were judged to have created an association between drinking pink Champagne and leading a wonderful life as the words La Nuit est Rose recall the title of popular song, La Vie en Rose (Life in Pink), which the court said suggested having wonderful life.


Any association between having a good time and drinking is a problem in France under the strict 1991 alcohol and tobacco publicity law known as the Loi Evin (Evin's Law). The law says only factual information can appear on drinks publicity.


In the second judgment, dated January 8, 2008, against Heineken, ANPAA charged certain visuals, games and animations on the French site—www.heinken.fr—exceeded the limits of the Loi Evin, effectively paving the way for a ban on drinks publicity on the web. The judge also advised the updating of the Loi Evin, as it does not specifically mention the internet.


The third judgement, against French newspaper Le Parisien, included a 7,500 euro fine for a three-page editorial on Champagne published in the run up to Christmas 2005. The court said the editorial and advertising breached the line between editorial, and was described as "destined to promote sales of an alcoholic drink, in that it exercised a psychological action which would, of its nature, encourage consumption." Also against the Loi Evin.


Moët Chandon, Heineken and Le Parisien have all refused to comment on the judgements, and so far only Heineken is appealing. It has already appealed another decision handed down in October 2007 which required it to pull all print advertising associated with the Rugby World Cup, hosted in France last year. The Loi Evin also bans sponsorship of sporting events by drinks companies. Heineken is currently awaiting the results of both appeals.

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