What causes binge drinking? It’s hard to say but in Europe, it does seem to predominate in northern countries where public policies coincidentally can limit hours and sales channels, sometimes with a dose of high taxes to boot. Southern European countries have generally consumed more alcohol, had more lax policy but have lower rates of binge drinking. Maybe it’s that the drink of choice is wine in the south. Or maybe it has to do with more permissive parenting, where tasting wine is not forbidden, but rather encouraged in moderation at table with parents.
The whole constellation is being called into question now that “le binge drinking” has arrived in France. Surprisingly, an NPR story specifically mentions the arrival of youth binge drinking as a failure of permissive parenting. I still cling to the idea that learning about wine en famille can provide a good base for moderation–these teens are slamming vodka, after all. Binge drinking is a complex phenomenon with many influences ranging from physiological, social, economic to even policy itself (some argue that a more restrictive policy fuels the binge mentality). Still, its rise in France means that national policy now allows only those 18 and up to purchase drinks. And some towns such as Lyons are placing bans on the sale of alcohol from 10 PM – 6 AM. Even though wine has been considered different from other alcoholic beverages–it has even been considered as food in France–it is obviously affected by the new policies.
It’s sad to see that France, where wine has been seen as the national drink and even as a part of the national image, has now ended up shifting closer to where we are in practice and policy. But they do have a president who doesn’t even drink wine. Who knows, maybe they will even have a list of party schools soon.