Two massive prevention campaigns were planned throughout France during the Rugby World Cup and after. but you will never see these posters in the street…

Are certain economic interests so powerful that they can radically influence the decisions of public actors? The Rugby World Cup in France could have been an opportunity for public authorities to communicate about the harmful effects of alcohol, but the government backtracked. According to Radio France, a campaign called “Don’t let alcohol knock you out” was canceled when everything was ready: posters, visuals, clips, broadcast plans, etc. Despite several months of work, its broadcast was purely and simply canceled in extremis.

However, the process was long and respectful of the requirements: in November 2022, the government, via the DGS, had asked Public Health France to create a campaign on “alcohol and rugby”. Another campaign titled “When we drink, our health takes a hit” was also rejected. It highlighted the risks associated with regular alcohol consumption, including heart rhythm disorders and hemorrhagic strokes, according to Le Canard Enchaîné, which was also moved by this case.

It’s during the presentation of the visuals, at the very end of the validation chain, that everything seems to have happened. The cabinet of François Braun, then still Minister of Health, decided to veto these campaigns. They were replaced by the recycling of a previous communication campaign, aimed at young people.

Questioned by France Info, the ministry’s office responded: “In the context of a significant number of campaigns carried out by the State and its operators including SPF in the second half of 2023, it was decided to review the priorities on the theme Alcohol and to prioritize the ‘young’ target.

But the cabinet did not mention “the pressures exerted by the alcoholics on the public authorities, and in particular the Elysée”, according to Myriam Savy, director of advocacy within the association Addictions France, also interviewed by France Info. A particularly virulent letter from Vin et Société, the French wine lobby, addressed to Emmanuel Macron, illustrates this pressure very clearly. In particular, we can read this charge against the communication prepared by the services of the ministry, before the minister’s veto: “Through an inept slogan, it is the moments of conviviality of the French who are directly targeted. […] This campaign does not show any scenes of excessive alcohol consumption, simply families and friends reuniting, moments of sharing that unite several generations”.

The censorship of the two prevention campaigns could well be directly linked to the demands of this letter, according to Radio France. “It’s extremely worrying,” added Myriam Savy, to RadioFrance, recalling that “the social cost of alcohol is 102 billion euros. We have the impression that economic interests come before those of the population “.

Prevention associations recalled that the government had already reversed course in 2019 during a campaign for “Dry January”. This event involves not consuming alcohol throughout the month of January. Initially involved, the executive preferred to turn a deaf ear to the associations’ appeal at the last moment.