This is a monthly discussion of "issues to watch" in the field of alcohol policy.
Alcohol in Convenience Stores Quickly Becoming an Election Issue
We must be approaching a provincial election as groups such as the Ontario Convenience Store Association (OCSA) are beginning to make familiar arguments to sell alcohol products in corner stores. According to the OCSA, 60% of Ontarians support selling beer and wine in convenience stores.
Interestingly and similar to the last election cycle, these findings differ from public health organizations such as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). For example, several Ontario surveys conducted through CAMH indicate 78% of adult Ontarians are actually opposed to alcohol sales in corner stores and 72% are opposed to the privatization of government liquor stores (CAMH, 2007).
The charitable organization Arrive Alive is one of several on-record opposing alcohol sales in corner stores. In a publicly released letter in July 2011, President Brian Mitchell states the “primary reason for opposing both privatization and corner store sales has always been public safety. As alcohol still plays a major role in the occurrence of fatal and serious injuries, we continue to believe that a controlled environment for retailing alcohol products remains an absolute necessity”.
MADD Canada, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Ontario Public Health Association have also expressed concerns in a recent letter reminding government that “abandoning the current system in favour of a privatized or semi-privatized system puts the public at higher risk for a wide range of alcohol-related problems”.
International research has long indicated that privatization of retail sales is expected to be associated with an increase in density of alcohol outlets; longer hours of sales; increase in alcohol consumption; and an increase in alcohol-related harm. Further, no study has been published to date which demonstrated that loosening alcohol availability laws resulted in a decrease in outlet density; reduced hours of sale; reduction in total volume of alcohol; reduction in high-risk drinking; or reduction in alcohol-related harm (Giesbrecht, 2007). In more concrete terms, availability of alcohol is causally associated with high risk drinking, overall consumption, and alcohol-related health and social problems (Babor et al. 2003, 2010).
Normalizing alcohol use and misuse in society through increased accessibility in venues frequented by children and youth – such as convenience stores – is also of concern. Such a direction also counteracts the proposed National Alcohol Strategy which strives to ensure “sensible alcohol use … developing a culture where moderation is the goal”.
Further, convenience stores have quite a flawed record when it comes to legally handling and selling goods. As President Brian Mitchell of Arrive Alive points out, “the very history of corner store sales with nicotine and lottery tickets has proven them to be at risk when it comes to selling responsibly and adding a privilege such as retailing alcohol would be a serious mistake …”
MADD Canada and its partners argue how “governments, public health partners and community organizations worked very hard to remove tobacco products from convenience stores for the improved health of our communities and all Ontario residents. Replacing tobacco products on convenience store shelves with alcohol products would take us several steps backward in the health of Ontarians.”
MADD Canada and its partners are therefore calling on the provincial government to pass a formal resolution opposing alcohol in convenience stores.
Feel free to visit www.madd.ca
for further details.
Provincial Election Resources
Make Ontario the Healthiest Province in Canada
“Ontarians are concerned about the overall state of health and want their government to commit to make Ontario a healthier province,” reads a recently developed election brief distributed by the Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (OCDPA). The Brief references a recent poll by Ipsos Reid, where 9 in 10 Ontarians favour an increased investment in health promotion and 8 in 10 feel so strongly they would vote on it in the upcoming election.
Working in partnership with nearly thirty provincial groups and NGO’s including the Ontario Public Health Association, the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, and the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association; OCDPA identified key issues and recommendations to inform the provincial election in October 2011.
Serveral key issues were identified, including:
- Ontario is facing a health care crisis that is preventable.
- Ontario is not spending enough to keep its residents healthy compared to BC and Quebec.
- Ontarians think this is imporant and will act on it with their vote in the next election.
- We deserve to have our government invest in health for now and future generations.
In the face of current economic uncertainties and mounting fiscal pressures in Ontario’s health care system, TD Bank released a special report in May 2010 that urges the Province to lead an “extraordinary effort” to improve the health of Ontarians through health promotion. In order to make Ontario the healthiest province in Canada, a collaborative approach - which includes multi-sectors and stakeholders at the local, regional and provincial levels - must be taken to remove the barriers to improve the health of Ontarians. This will require a comprehensive and multi-faceted strategy that will include effective policies, environmental supports, and public education to effect broad societal changes in health behaviours.
Government leadership is essential to make Ontario the healthiest province in Canada. The following recommendations were therefore developed for political parties as Ontario approaches the next election:
- Commit to make Ontario the healthiest province in Canada.
- Commit to focus efforts on health promotion to create a more sustainable health system.
- Commit to increase Ontario's overall investment in health promotion to match British Columbia's.
- Articulate these commitments in 2011 election platforms.
Feel free to visit www.healthiestprovince.ca for further details and resources.
Election Key Issues and Recommendations
In preparation for the upcoming 2011 provincial election, the Ontario Public Health Association has identified key issues and recommendations within a short election primer. An example of a key issue featured in the primer is the realization that health costs attributed to alcohol outweigh any economic benefit gained from alcohol sales and taxes. The primer outlines it is therefore recommended that a provincial alcohol strategy be developed and implemented using a cross-departmental approach to actively control access and consumption while increasing intervention and education.
Stated at www.opha.on.ca, “OPHA strongly encourages the provincial parties to renew their commitment to ensuring that the environments we live in are planned, built and governed in accordance with core public health foundations.”
To view the election primer in its entirety, feel free to download the following resource: http://www.opha.on.ca/resources/docs/OPHA_Key_Election_Issues-2011.pdf