Current alcohol policies give Canadians a hangover
OTTAWA, ON – February 3, 2016 – The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) applauds the Government of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada on the release of The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2015: Alcohol Consumption in Canada. While drinking alcohol is widely accepted in Canadian society, it is not a harmless activity. Alcohol consumption is linked to over 200 different diseases, conditions and types of injuries – a fact that Canada’s alcohol industry would prefer be glossed over.
“We are using the release of the CPHO’s report to raise awareness of the health and social costs related to alcohol and to propose recommendations for a public health approach to alcohol policy in Canada,” says Ian Culbert, CPHA’s Executive Director. “When the health and enforcement costs outweigh revenues from alcohol in almost all provinces and territories, clearly a new approach is needed.” CPHA developed a set of evidence-based recommendations in a position paper entitled, A Public Health Approach to Alcohol Policy in Canada.
“Alcohol consumption also contributes to health inequities,” says Mr. Culbert. “While those with more disposable income are likely to drink more, those with a lower socio-economic status tend to suffer from higher levels of alcohol-related harms, including death.”
CPHA encourages all Canadians to follow Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. Unfortunately, the 2013 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey found that 21% – more than one in five – of the people who consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months exceeded the low-risk drinking guidelines.
“There are also a number of mixed and misleading messages about the potential benefits of alcohol consumption,” says Mr. Culbert. “But these potential benefits do not apply to youth or young adults and are only related to modest consumption of alcohol.”
Further complicating the issue is the economics of alcohol. From April 2013 to March 2014, Canadians bought $20.5 billion worth of alcohol, resulting in $10.5 billion in government revenue. Although difficult to measure, these financial benefits come at a high cost. The cost of hospitalizations related to psychoactive substances – over half of which were related to alcohol – was $267 million in 2011. When the health and social costs for deaths, injuries and damage to vehicles are included, costs relating to impaired driving (including alcohol and other drugs) were estimated at over $20.6 billion a year in 2010.
“Individual Canadians need to look at the potential risks associated with their patterns of alcohol consumption and all levels of government need to look at the policy and regulatory tools at their disposal to support Canadians to reduce their consumption levels,” concludes Mr. Culbert.