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Recent Reports Flagged by the Alcohol Prevention WG

July 8, 2014

following recent key reports and initiatives which highlight alcohol use and its related harms, and offer strategies to mitigate these harms. 

Ø  Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health

In May 2014 the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the  Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014, a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and related health and social consequences.  This document presents data at the global, regional and country level on alcohol and public health, consumption of alcohol, patterns of drinking, and policy responses in WHO member states.  A number of supporting documents are available   on  the WHO website, including statistical information and Individual Country Profiles. In Canada, the per capita alcohol consumption, of total population 15 years and over, is considerably higher than the world average, at 10.2 vs. 6.2 litres of pure alcohol. In addition, prevalence of heavy episodic drinking in the total population aged 15 years or older is 17.8 %, more than double the worldwide rate of 7.5%.

WHO has taken the position that more needs to be done to protect populations from the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption, and offers support for the use of strategies which control the alcohol availability.  They list a number of cost-effective, evidence based policy options to limit availability and reduce the harmful use of alcohol, including:
1.      A  licensing system for retail sales, or public health oriented government monopoly on the sale of alcohol;
2.      Regulating the density of alcohol outlets by limiting  their number and location;
3.      Regulating days and hours of retail sales;
4.      Establishing  a minimum age for purchase or consumption of alcoholic beverages;
5.      Setting policies regarding drinking in public places.

Ø  Cancer Risk Factors in Canada

In April 2014, Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) released “Cancer Care Risk Factors: Alcohol-highlights, implications, context”  as part of a series that examines cancer risk factors facing Ontarians.

The findings of this report demonstrate that a substantial number of cancers diagnosed in Ontario could be prevented by reducing alcohol consumption in the population.  In particular, oral cancers as well as esophageal, larynx, liver, colorectal and breast cancer are highlighted. 

CCO takes the position that “there is no clear safe limit of alcohol intake to prevent this increased risk of cancer”. The report advocates for increased awareness since only one in three Canadians are aware of the link between drinking alcohol and cancer. In addition, the report underscores that Ontarians with higher incomes and those living in rural areas are more likely to exceed low risk drinking recommendations than those with lower incomes or in urban areas.

The Alcohol Workgroup also continues to monitor further changes and “modernization” of alcohol laws in Ontario, including the recent two year pilot project which allows the sale of VQA Wines in Ontario Farmers’ Markets. The workgroup, in collaboration with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), expressed a number of concerns about this pilot project in a letter to the Ministry of the Attorney General in the spring.