Canada: Restrictions on Flavoured Purified Alcohol Beverages
Recently, Canadian Minister of Health Petitpas Taylor announced new regulations to restrict the amount of alcohol in single-serve containers of flavoured purified alcoholic beverages.
Flavoured purified alcoholic beverages, a new and growing class of beverages in Canada, pose an increasing public health risk to Canadians, particularly youth. These beverages are high in alcohol, containing as many as four standard alcoholic drinks in a single-serve container.
They are often highly sweetened, which makes it very easy to unintentionally consume large amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time, leading to serious alcohol-related harms.
Protecting youth from Big Alcohol
The purpose of the new regulations is to protect Canadians, in particular youth, from the immediate risks posed by these beverages, including unintentional over-consumption and acute alcohol poisoning.
The new regulations come into effect immediately, given the seriousness of the risks.
- Under the new regulations, single-serve flavoured purified alcoholic beverages are limited to 25.6 ml of alcohol (representing 1.5 standard drinks) when they are packaged in containers of a volume of 1000 ml or less.
- Before these regulations came into force, an adult weighing 82 kilograms (180 pounds) would have found themselves over the legal limit for impaired driving by consuming a single container of flavoured purified alcohol in one hour.
- The impact would be even greater for youth. For example, if a youth weighing 45 kilograms (100 pounds) consumed a single-serve flavoured purified alcoholic beverage, they could become severely intoxicated. If they consumed two of these beverages, they could be hospitalized with a risk of death.
Alcohol harm in Canada
In Canada over one third of alcohol using youth between 15 to 19 years binge on the substance, the statistic is worst for young boys with over half (55.5%) bingeing on alcohol. Alcohol harm is pervasive in Canada with 12% of men suffering from alcohol use disorder and 6% from alcohol dependence – figures that are way above the WHO Americas regional average. Alcohol also causes almost 4.000 cancer deaths in Canada and heavy episodic alcohol use is rampant.
Reducing alcohol content in flavoured purified alcoholic beverages is a positive step in curbing the alcohol harm in Canada. However, Canada needs a national action plan to better tackle alcohol harm.