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Friday, 7 October 2011

Alcohol and the public's health - Bottoms up!!

Nova Scotia took a brave step in 2007 with the release of the provincial alcohol reduction strategy  Nova Scotia alcohol policy .  Ontario slipped an alcohol policy into a broader drug strategy.  Alberta senior agencies called for one, I’ve not seen anything yet.  BC did an updated report in 2008.  
Conversely both Australia Australia alcohol reduction strategy  and England UK strategy for alcohol reduction have national alcohol reduction strategies. 
The first question might be why don’t we have more provincial strategies, or a national strategy.  We are good at describing the impact that alcohol has on the public’s health.  We haven’t been very good about owning the problem and seeking solutions.
Of course alcohol brings with it that subtle and slight health protective benefit.  Not insignificant, and certainly difficult to recommend abstinence as the healthiest option. Hence we have by default, a harm reduction policy in Canada towards alcohol.  I hope that the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) reads this, as harm reduction is such a obscene term that perhaps it might incite some radical action to eliminate alcohol consumption. Though, unlikely the PMO would take on the Molsons, Labatts, Vincor, Seagrams, or a host of other producers of Canada’s finest in beer, wine and spirits.
Given the contribution to founding stability in the Canadian economy afforded by Canadian distillers during the US prohibition years, we should be grateful.  Economic vitality has been founded in small volume breweries, estate wineries and a growing interest in small volume distillates. 
Canada’s alcohol and drug consumption use monitoring survey Canada alcohol and drug use monitoring survey   is a rich resource on alcohol and drug use consumption in Canada for the past few years.   Statistics Canada produces rich data on alcohol consumption, but in typical fashion does not present it for intellectual consumption – there is a good tabulation of regional comparisons posted to Wikipedia Wikipedia version of Statistics Canada data.  For long term trends, the BC centre of addiction research has good data regionally that compare nationally.  The graph is reproduced below, the most notable finding is that alcohol consumption continues to rise at about 1% increase per capita per year.   Not the right direction to be going to if there existed an alcohol reduction strategy as Australia and UK have.

Speaking of reduction strategies, kudos to Obama and our cousins to the south for their updated drug control strategy.  An enlightened effort that perhaps can show Canada the need for a more balanced approach.  Given the US went so far to the right on the War on Drugs, coming back to reality is welcomed, can we learn from this experience?  White House US drug strategy 2011    

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