PARIS: France's agriculture minister unleashed a torrent of criticism from addiction experts on Wednesday after claiming that wine, unlike other forms of alcohol, was rarely the cause of binge drinking.
"I don't think wine is comparable to other alcohols," Didier Guillaume told BFM television.
"Alcohol addiction is a real problem, notably among young people with binge drinking and so on," Guillaume said.
#BourdinDirect "Le vin n'est pas un alcool comme les autres". "Je n'ai jamais vu un jeune qui sort de boîte de nuit saoul car il a bu du côtes-du-Rhône" affirme @dguillaume26— BFMTV (@BFMTV) January 16, 2019
📺 https://t.co/LIEhlp6yN7 pic.twitter.com/Ph7aagbXpX
"It's a real problem but I've never seen, to my knowledge -- unfortunately perhaps -- a youngster leaving a nightclub drunk because they drank Cotes-du-Rhone."
He blamed binge drinking among young people largely on spirits and mixers.
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"What blindness! Mr Guillaume, all doctors invite you to take a tour of the emergency room on a bullfighting night," said Michel Reynaud, head of France's Addiction Action Fund.
"To be more precise, every day there are people with acute alcohol poisoning due to wine."
President Emmanuel Macron has also come under fire in the past for shrugging off the effects of drinking liberal amounts of wine.
"Me, I drink wine at lunch and dinner!" he told journalists while visiting the agricultural show in Paris last year, telling those calling for tighter controls on alcohol advertising to "give the French a break".
Bernard Basset, vice president of the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction (ANPAA), said on Wednesday that studies showed that 18 percent of young people get drunk on wine.
And 25 per cent admit to getting drunk on champagne, he added, citing figures from the French Observatory of Drugs and Addiction (OFDT).
"Wine is alcohol like any other for getting drunk," Basset wrote on Twitter.
The row comes a week after specialists attacked a new anti-addiction plan from the French government, saying it contained few concrete provisions for fighting alcoholism.
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France has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in Europe, beaten only by Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, according to data from the World Health Organization.
Wine represents 58 per cent of alcohol consumption in France, according to the OFDT.