Making alcohol more widely available has health cost implications

Dave Bryans, president of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, was mentioned in this corner recently (read post here) for leading the charge to allow beer and wine to be sold in convenience stores across the province.

His organization has launched a Facebook campaign asking voters to push for additional access to beer and wine in convenience stores.

Now OPSEU responds to the campaign with the argument Ontario needs to look very closely at the real costs of doing so. Visit their website.

Here is their release . . .

Ontario’s corner store owners are trying to stir up liquor privatization in the midst of the provincial election. They want thousands of convenience stores to be able to sell beer and wine in the province. The fringe Libertarian Party is going further by demanding the “repeal” of the LCBO and to allow anyone to sell alcohol.

Apparently what we need in the province is more access to alcohol, or so the corner stores say. For most of us, this is definitely a head scratcher.

When a final decision is made, Ontario needs to look very closely at the real costs of doing so, including the health costs.

The Local Health Integration Networks finally seem to be coming around to the idea of dealing with upstream costs, realizing there are huge savings to be had by preventing illness.

Allowing thousands of corners stores to sell booze would make such efforts into farce.

With the exception of the right-wing Fraser Institute, most studies have directly linked availability of liquor to consumption levels. Of course there are other factors, including price, but availability appears to be a key indicator.

As liquor sales go up, so do other health problems, ranging from liver cirrhosis to depression to addiction – all representing significant cost to our health system.

Provinces set up Liquor Control Boards precisely to limit the sale of liquor based on rational social needs.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse found in a 2004 survey that 32 per cent of respondents reported that in the past year they had experienced some harm due to drinking by others.

Walking into a convenience store you may be tempted to sign their petition. Before doing so, think about how much you will really have to pay to get your beer and wine at the corner store. You may not like the answer.

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