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OPHA applauds the passing of Bill C-44

July 25, 2017

OPHA applauds the passing of Bill C-44 allowing for an annual increase in federal excise tax on alcohol.

Governments have long used customs tariffs on alcohol imports and excise duties on domestic production to generate tax revenue to help reduce rates of harm from drinking. The OPHA Alcohol Workgroup congratulates the federal government on passing legislation that will see a two-per-cent increase on the excise tax for beer, wine and liquor with the rate set to increase every year along with the Consumer Price Index. This was one of the recommendations from the National Alcohol Strategy Working group to reduce alcohol related harms. Taxation and pricing policies are proven, effective ways of controlling the availability and consumption of alcohol. As a general rule, higher prices translate into lower consumption and reduce alcohol-related harm, while lower prices lead to increases in consumption and related harm. The evidence suggests that the effects of pricing apply to all groups of drinkers, including young people and heavy or problem drinkers.  The price of alcohol influences consumption levels and hence the probability of acute and/or chronic adverse health outcomes. A failure to link many tax increases with the cost of living allows taxation rates to erode over time, contributing to lower prices and potentially increasing consumption. In particular, rates of federal excise duty on alcoholic beverages have not been increased since 1991. Further, some provincial levies and mark-ups are not increased to keep pace with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The OPHA Alcohol Workgroup continues to call on the Ontario government to fulfill its commitment to create a comprehensive, province wide strategy to develop initiatives to support safe consumption of alcohol, especially in light of the expansion of alcohol sales in Ontario. Drawing on experience with other health and social issues, it is feasible to overcome the challenges presented by alcohol related harms through a coordinated, comprehensive and well-resourced provincial alcohol strategy. Such a strategy would build a supportive infrastructure in Ontario to reduce, prevent and address alcohol related issues and harms such as high risk drinking, injury, FASD, chronic and infectious disease, addiction, and crime; and would address the unique needs of Ontario and its diverse populations.