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Beer Sales in Grocery Stores

April 20, 2015

OPHA is concerned about the government’s recent announcement to significantly expand beer retailing and distribution. Alcohol is not a commodity like others. It is an under-appreciated but very substantial contributor to chronic diseases, injuries and social problems. The health care, enforcement and other social costs are estimated to be more than $5 billion annually, well above the revenue generated. There is a well-established relationship between alcohol availability and harms. Any planned changes must keep these considerations at the forefront, in addition to issues of revenue generation and consumer convenience.
While distribution of beer through grocery stores is not a preferred approach, OPHA welcomes the inclusion of significant LCBO oversight and control as a means to mitigate potential harms. We understand that the LCBO’s stringent standards, training and responsible sales practices will be built into the new sales model. For example, the new model is to have pricing controls, limit hours of sale, limit product size to 6-packs, be rolled out slowly among a limited number of stores, and create stores with separate retail areas and cash registers for beer sales. OPHA believes these are important principles that need to be safeguarded as this new model is implemented.
As Mr. Clark and his panel continue their work on reforming alcohol sales in Ontario, OPHA encourages this panel to keep in mind the health implications of any further changes and welcomes the opportunity to offer suggestions about ways to minimize the health impacts. In addition, OPHA calls on the Ontario government to bring together the various ministries and agencies whose mandate and programming relate to alcohol in order to develop a cross-government provincial alcohol strategy. Such a strategy could ensure that any changes to existing policies or programs or the introduction of new ones would first consider the health and safety implications and require a formal review and impact analysis of the health and economic impacts be undertaken.