The History of Children and Wine in France

One of the world’s largest and most prestigious wine producers, the French have never been reluctant to introduce their country’s wines to the rest of the world. Did you know that the love of wine is so ingrained in the culture of France that even schoolchildren used to drink it in the breaks between lectures until quite recently?

Did you know that, not so long ago, French schoolchildren might be seen drinking wine in the cafeteria? The widespread belief that all French youth drink wine is a cliché. However, do today’s French youth still drink wine daily? It is undeniable that various civilizations have various views on alcohol use. To my surprise, I found out that it was especially common in Anglophone countries. I found similarities between places with tight alcohol prohibition and the United States. There are, however, considerable distraction strategies to use.

Drinking History

Children were even allowed to drink wine with their dinner before 1956. Most of it was watered-down wine, but cheers! It is unsettling for anybody but a Frenchman in this day and age! At the time, however, it seems that the decision by the Ministry of Health to ban the use of wine in schools shocked the parents the most. The widespread belief among 1950s parents that alcohol had a beneficial effect on their children’s development and fortification is an example of the kind of myth that flourished during that era. Because of this, some mothers and fathers have resolved to take action. The parents were so pleased with their offspring’s achievements that they presented each with a bottle of wine to enjoy throughout the school day[1].

Whatever the situation, in 1956, France passed a rule prohibiting canteen sales of alcoholic beverages to anybody under the age of 14. Underage drinkers above 14 were still under the law’s protections. Also, France did not implement legislation strictly barring alcohol usage in schools until 1981. However, they are only applicable to drinking on campus. In France, there is no legal age restriction on purchasing or using alcoholic drinks[2].

Children and Wine – Why?

Compared to modern culture, the fact that French students formerly drank wine during class breaks appears absurd. Before the 1950s, canteens at French schools not only served alcoholic drinks like wine, beer, and cider but actively encouraged underage students to partake.

People believed alcohol killed germs, and although that may not have been the case, it did seem to help warm the youngster’s cold-afflicted chest[1]. Moreover, because national advertising and attitude actively encouraged it, this led to the widespread consumption of alcoholic drinks in educational settings, which is cause for worry.

Surprisingly many parents are known to bring their children to school with at least one alcoholic beverage of their selection. A half-liter should do the trick if you are drinking wine, cider, or beer. Some parents reportedly urged their children to drink wine over breakfast on days when school administrators would not allow the beverage to be served to students[2].

A Quick Turn?

The Ministry of National Education did not make it unlawful to provide alcohol to minors younger than 14 on school grounds until August 1956. If their parents provided their OK, older children might continue using the canteen as long as they did not drink more than “one-eighth of a liter per head,” It was a moment of record alcohol consumption in France, with young people being the most likely to partake. Therefore, there was pushback from certain quarters once it was decided to institute an age limit and ban. To everyone’s surprise, police enforcement included[1].

In March 1956, for instance, the National Advisory Committee on School and University Health recommended that alcohol be banned from schools. The government has maintained that, under the current circumstances, alcohol freedom cannot be extended to the whole of France. A report published at the time by the committee made this same point. In March of that year, the test run was held in a boarding school. Since underage drinkers were more prone to nod off in class, this was a major problem. They may also exhibit indications of hyperactivity or an inability to focus. When the ban was extended to include all school-aged children, most educators breathed a sigh of relief[2].

This stopped happening when commercials with catchphrases like “to be studious, strong, and vigorous, drink milk!” became more common to get kids to consume more milk. A few months after Francois Mitterrand was elected president of France, in September 1981, high schools banned alcohol. Water was the solely permitted drink at the dinner table at the time[3]. Even though it may not seem too long ago, this occurred. Minister of National Education Alain Savary reportedly ordered that no alcoholic drinks be served in school cafeterias or restaurants, even if water supplies were interrupted.

The Evolving National Health Issue

On the other hand, it is worth noting that between 60% and 70% of French 11-year-olds have tried alcohol, and 5% to 8% of those people regularly imbibe. Medical experts warn that starting to drink alcohol may be dangerous since it increases the risk of developing alcohol dependence[1].

Wine’s cultural and economic importance in France persists despite the numerous warnings provided by medical specialists about its negative effects on health. More than half a million jobs in France have been created thanks to the wine industry’s clout.

Forebodingly, France is among the nations where people consume the most alcohol on average, which might be a sign of a serious issue. Global rankings position it constantly in the top 15 worldwide. More than 40,000 people in France die yearly from alcohol-related causes, and wine accounts for 58% of our total consumption of alcoholic beverages, so it is evident that we have a problem[1]. Education alone will not solve the societal challenge that we are all facing.

ON THIS DAY

September 1956: Under Prime Minister Pierre Mendès’s administration, a ban on underage drinking in schools was passed in 1956[1]. An alternative to alcohol at snack time is milk with a sugar sprinkle. A decision that was met with widespread disapproval when it was first introduced. Many saw it as a way to win over the support of those in the French dairy industry, which Pierre Mendès needed to revive. After that, in September 1981, a ban on alcoholic beverages in secondary schools went into force for all pupils aged 14 and above[2]. This supplementary law fulfills the purpose of the original 1956 law.

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References

[1] Jade Cuttle, “Why French Schoolchildren Used to Drink Wine between Lessons,” Culture Trip (The Culture Trip, March 11, 2018), https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/why-french-schoolchildren-used-to-drink-wine-between-lessons/.

[2] “▷ French Kids Drink Wine: Myth or Reality? – Expat in France,” Expat in France, March 7, 2022, https://expat-in-france.com/french-kids-drink-wine/.

[1] Francesco Donato et al., “Patterns and Covariates of Alcohol Drinking among High School Students in 10 Towns in Italy: A Cross-Sectional Study,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 37, no. 1 (January 1995): 59–69, https://doi.org/10.1016/0376-8716(94)01053-n.

[1] Jade Cuttle, “Why French Schoolchildren Used to Drink Wine between Lessons,” Culture Trip (The Culture Trip, March 11, 2018), https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/why-french-schoolchildren-used-to-drink-wine-between-lessons/.

[1] “▷ French Kids Drink Wine: Myth or Reality? – Expat in France,” Expat in France, March 7, 2022, https://expat-in-france.com/french-kids-drink-wine/.

[2] Fabrice O Lorente et al., “Participation in Sports and Alcohol Consumption among French Adolescents,” Addictive Behaviors 29, no. 5 (July 2004): 941–46, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2004.02.039.

[3] Francesco Donato et al., “Patterns and Covariates of Alcohol Drinking among High School Students in 10 Towns in Italy: A Cross-Sectional Study,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence 37, no. 1 (January 1995): 59–69, https://doi.org/10.1016/0376-8716(94)01053-n.

[1] Wolfgang Settertobulte et al., “Drinking among Young Europeans,” Who.int, 2021, https://doi.org/EUR/ICP/IVST 06 03 05(‎C)‎.

[2] Jade Cuttle, “Why French Schoolchildren Used to Drink Wine between Lessons,” Culture Trip (The Culture Trip, March 11, 2018), https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/why-french-schoolchildren-used-to-drink-wine-between-lessons/.

[1] “▷ French Kids Drink Wine: Myth or Reality? – Expat in France,” Expat in France, March 7, 2022, https://expat-in-france.com/french-kids-drink-wine/.

[2] Jade Cuttle, “Why French Schoolchildren Used to Drink Wine between Lessons,” Culture Trip (The Culture Trip, March 11, 2018), https://theculturetrip.com/europe/france/articles/why-french-schoolchildren-used-to-drink-wine-between-lessons/.

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