Canada: Better Alcohol Policy for Public Health Needed
Public health experts and advocates are stressing the need for a better alcohol policy in Canada. Atlantic provinces are suffering the most due to lack of comprehensive alcohol control policy in the country.
While leading in impaired driving regulations Canada needs to invest in a more comprehensive alcohol policy aimed at reducing the alcohol harm and cost to the country.
In Nova Scotia, only 35% of alcohol is sold at Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) stores, the government monopoly controling sales of alcoholic beverages. The rest is sold at private stores or in on-premise outlets like bars and restaurants.
Evidence would suggest that maintaining a government owned system is better than a fully private system. That’s largely because when government is in control it’s a lot easier to implement and enforce effective alcohol policies,” said Kara Thomson, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, as per Halifax today.
Ms. Thomson says studies have found every single province and territory is in a deficit, they are spending more money on alcohol-related health care than they are making from alcohol sales.
Room for improvement in Canadian alcohol policy
We are seeing privatization of alcohol sales creep in. New Brunswick’s pilot project to allow alcohol sales in grocery stores in 2014 has resulted in equal numbers of grocery and government liquor stores. Newfoundland and Labrador have allowed beer sales in corner stores for a long time now,” said Ms. Thomson, as per the Guardian.
The Alcohol Policy Evaluation (CAPE) project reports on the efficacy of alcohol policy implementation in Canada. It analyzed the implementation of effective policies across 11 areas. These included pricing and taxation, physical availability, impaired driving, marketing/advertising, minimum legal age, liquor law enforcement, type of alcohol control system and health warnings/safety messaging.
The reports found that Atlantic Canada had some of the best impaired-driving policies in the country. Physical availability was a key area in need of improvement. It was found Atlantic provinces have a higher number of on-premise alcohol outlets for their populations than much of the rest of Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador having the most places to buy take-away alcohol of all the Canadian provinces.
Marketing/advertising and health warnings/safety messaging are two other areas with lots of room for improvement as the Atlantic provinces don’t have an independent authority to monitor alcohol ads, and health warnings and safety messaging is not mandatory and of poor quality.
Restricting access to alcohol and implementing advertising, promotion, sponsorship bans on alcohol are two of the alcohol policy best buys recommended by WHO. These are proven effective measures which will prevent and reduce alcohol problems in Canada, if implemented effectively.
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