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Alcohol pricing promotes a culture of moderation

January 13, 2016

Alcohol Prevention Workgroup – The 2015 holiday season is past – a season that traditionally sees an increase in spending on gifts, food and alcohol. In Ontario, this past holiday season was also one in which beer sales in select local grocery stores began.  The province continues to strive to ‘modernize’ the system and create convenience while keeping prices on par with the LCBO and The Beer Store. 

Yet, along with the promotion of ‘modernization’ there is an opportunity for moderation.
In creating a culture of moderation, alcohol outlets are but one factor influencing how much alcohol is purchased and consumed. Another factor is alcohol pricing. 

Early in 2015, the Ontario Public Health Association [OPHA] released an alcohol pricing fact sheet outlining proven means to reduce alcohol-related harms. The various strategies include having alcohol prices indexed to inflation, basing price on alcohol content (by volume), and minimum pricing.  As the number of retail outlets for alcohol increase, it is now time to address pricing issues within a province-wide Alcohol Strategy.

The use of price to control alcohol sales is being debated in other countries.  Like us, many countries endure the harmful effects of alcohol.  Here in Canada there is wide variation across the country as to how alcohol pricing is managed. In July 2015, the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee published: Social Reference Prices for Alcohol: A tool for Canadian Governments to Promote a Culture of Moderation.

Recommendations include:

  • Applying social reference pricing to all alcoholic beverages
  • Ensuring prices reflect alcohol content
  • Reviewing and maintaining prices relative to consumer price index & inflation
  • Closing loopholes that allow lower pricing

Using such research is a practical way to integrate modernization and moderation, all with the aim of decreasing the harmful effects of alcohol in our province, in our communities and in the lives of individuals.  OPHA applauds the government’s recent announcement to create a provincial alcohol strategy for Ontario.  In concert with a number of provincial partners, OPHA supports a strategy that reduces the harms and costs associated with current alcohol use.