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French government under pressure from powerful lobbies


In public health sector, ANPAA as all the civil society actors face continuously powerful lobbies (agri-food, tobacco, alcohol…). Agnès Buzyn, Minister for Solidarity and Health and scientist, was even forced to backtrack when she said on TV that wine was alcohol like the others. Why such a turnaround? Because Audrey Bourolleau, the Agriculture Adviser of the President Macron, is also the former Executive Director of the lobby Vin & Société.

On 28th August 2018, Nicolas Hulot - Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition – resigned from the French government. He denounced the lobbies influence in the highest political circles. On the eve, Thierry Coste, a political adviser and pro-hunting lobbyist, had attended a meeting at the Elysée Palace. For Nicolas Hulot, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

But in France as elsewhere, lobbies are not only influent in the environmental field. A lot of examples show that short-term interests – in terms of politics or economy – are preferred over long term interests that is to say future generations and populations wellbeing.

In public health sector, ANPAA as all the civil society actors face continuously powerful lobbies (agri-food, tobacco, alcohol…). Agnès Buzyn, Minister for Solidarity and Health and scientist, was even forced to backtrack when she said on TV that wine was alcohol like the others. Why such a turnaround? Because Audrey Bourolleau, the Agriculture Adviser of the President Macron, is also the former Executive Director of the lobby Vin & Société.

When Mediapart, an independent information website, was clearly proving the strong relations between the alcohol lobby and the government, the alcohol producers were releasing on 27th June 2018 their own health prevention plan. The government had asked a contribution to the prevention policy directly to the alcohol lobby; Vin & Société declared itself “delighted and surprised” by the demand.  

The contribution was obviously full of objectives with no specific commitments which would allow tangible effects. The lobby even proposed to use self-regulation of professional organisations, that is to say themselves, while all international studies show that self-regulation never works. Information of consumers is once again treated with contempt by alcohol producers.

In no other country, a lobby allowed itself to set up a health prevention policy while conflicts of interest are obvious. The National Association for Prevention in Alcoology and Addictology (ANPAA) asks for the respect of WHO Europe recommendations: “Public health policies relating to alcohol must be set up by public health representatives, without interference from commercial interests”.

We call on the government to less listen to lobbyists and to give greater consideration to recommendations of the civil society and experts or scientists who care about long term interest.  
By Professor Nicolas Simon, president of the National Association for Prevention in Alcoology and Addictology (ANPAA).