Canada: Extended Alcohol Sale Hours Could Increase Health Risks
The Toronto City Council voted in favor of a motion that allows restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks starting at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, two hours sooner than what is currently permitted.
A report authored by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health has warned about the health risks associated with alcohol use that could increase due to extended hours of sale.
More availability, more harm
In the report, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s top doctor, raised concerns about troubling trends surrounding alcohol consumption. She reported that while the number of Ontario adults consuming alcohol has remained stable over the past 20 years, the amount of alcohol consumed per person has “increased significantly.” She further noted “average weekly consumption among women has increased by 90% between 1996 and 2017.”
The report raises “serious concerns related to this increase and to the social acceptance of alcohol consumption.”
According to Dr. de Villa, increased access to alcohol has been an emerging problem since 2014.
The report says:
… evidence has shown that increasing the availability of alcohol (for example, adding more access points, extending the hours of sale and service, or lowering purchase price), is associated with increased alcohol consumption and alcohol-related health and social harms.”
In Ontario alone, access has increased over the last five years with beer, wine, and cider now sold in more than 350 grocery stores. LCBO, the only licensed retail store selling alcohol in Ontario, is continuing to enhance their online retail experience and recently extended retail hours to include 9:00 AM to 11: 00 PM on Sundays as well.
Evidence indicates that government policy strategies such as socially responsible pricing of alcoholic beverages, limits on the number of retail outlets, hours of sale and service, and marketing controls can mitigate the harms from alcohol consumption,” wrote Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health, as per CP 24.
The report recommends a “provincial alcohol strategy” to address the health and social harms, as well as the economic costs and public safety impacts of alcohol consumption.
Alcohol Harm in Canada
Canada’s per capita alcohol consumption while decreasing is still higher than the WHO Americas region. Canadian men suffer from both alcohol use disorders (12%) and alcohol dependence (6%) significantly more than the average of the region.
With data clearly indicating pervasive alcohol harm, Canada should heed the recommendations by their health professionals such as in the report by Toronto Medical Officer of Health, which suggests stronger policy action to control alcohol. The suggested recommendations in the report on pricing, restricting access and marketing control of alcohol are all in line with the WHO alcohol policy best buys which are proven successful in curbing alcohol harm.