The Shopping Cart | Does Canada Drink Too Much?


PHOTO SARAH MONGEAU-BIRKETT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

The Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction recommends no more than two alcoholic beverages per week.

Sylvain Charlebois

Sylvain Charlebois
Senior Director, Agri-Food Analytical Sciences Laboratory, Dalhousie University, Special Collaboration

A new report from the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) recommends that the average person should have zero to two alcoholic beverages per week, a significant reduction from current guidelines, introduced in 2011. that the report represents a major effort, asking an anti-alcohol NGO for an opinion on alcohol is like asking vegans to comment on the beef industry. The recommendations were very predictable.

Posted at 6:30am

Apparently Canadians drink too much alcohol. According to the CCSA, which has evaluated more than 5,000 previous studies on alcohol consumption worldwide, our country’s drinking guidelines need to be significantly reduced. Canadians now have until September 23 to respond to his proposed new safe drinking guidelines.

The report recommends that, on average, a person should drink zero to two alcoholic beverages per week to reduce the possibility of negative health outcomes. In addition, it is recommended that bottles and containers of alcoholic beverages sold in Canada be fitted with warning labels similar to what we’ve seen on cigarette packs over the years.

The previous guidelines date from 2011 and should be much more permissive. A maximum of 10 standard drinks per week for women and 15 for men were defined as low-risk alcohol consumption.

The new, fairly comprehensive 65-page report highlights the latest research on alcohol use. The proposed new guidelines may be useful for healthcare professionals. Finally, according to the World Health Organization, Canadians drink more alcohol than the global average. Canada is about 40the Ranking for consumption per capita, right after the United States.

During the pandemic, many Canadians have increased their alcohol consumption, according to Statistics Canada. In Ontario, 30% of the population has increased their alcohol consumption and the other provinces follow: the Prairies at 27%, British Columbia at 22%, Quebec at 17% and the Atlantic at 16%. According to the same survey, one in five Canadians admitted to having increased their alcohol consumption since March 2020. That should be important to all of us. The CCSA report comes at a time when we are all trying to figure out what our lives will be like after COVID.

In conjunction with the release of the report, the CCSA has launched a four-week consultation process aimed at updating Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Guidelines (LRDGs). It ends on September 23rd.

These recommendations are based on improved scientific evidence, but Canadians are unlikely to take these recommendations seriously. Regardless of labeling recommendations, which are likely to cause significant public concern, alcohol is an integral part of many Canadians’ lives.

When the time comes to watch a hockey game or gather with family and friends, it becomes very difficult to imagine those moments without alcohol.

Abuse and overconsumption are real issues that need to be addressed, but most Canadians will find the proposed guidelines unrealistic.

In addition, governments across Canada collect millions of dollars in tax revenue from the sale of alcohol every year. According to Statistics Canada, net revenue from liquor companies and total taxes and other revenues in Canada was well over $13 billion in 2021. Total tax revenue was over $6 billion. Provinces and territories rely on these sales to provide dividends to support government spending in a variety of ways. Total sales of spirits companies across the country have grown 13% since 2016, which is a reasonable pace of growth. But the balance between high yields and social benefits for consumers remains delicate indeed. The policies considered will influence our behavior and what healthcare professionals will promote towards patients and the community.

What remains most curious, however, is the relationship between Health Canada and the CCSA. The Ottawa-based group receives financial support from Health Canada. CCSA is essentially a non-governmental lobby dedicated to reducing alcohol and drug harm. Reading the group’s reports, one might think that alcohol should be banned, well almost.

In other words, CCSA’s goal is to raise awareness to reduce alcohol consumption and influence policy. A parallel could be drawn if Health Canada asked vegans to comment on the beef industry. It becomes simply impossible to overlook possible dispositions and tendencies.

To add credibility and perspective, Health Canada would have benefited from conducting its own consultation or having multiple groups review the literature and make different recommendations. There is every reason to believe that the CCSA has a monopoly on scientific thinking related to alcohol consumption in Canada. This important question deserves to be considered from a variety of points of view.

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