Letter to the Editor: Beer in grocery stores: there’s a cost to that convenient choice

By Dr. Penny Sutcliffe

At its meeting of April 16, 2015, the Sudbury & District Board of Health passed a motion expressing its serious concerns about the proposed increased availability of alcohol across the province. A week later, Ontario took a significant step toward making alcohol more accessible to the general public. The province announced that beer will soon be sold on the shelves of grocery stores in Ontario. Wine will likely follow.

Public opinion seems to be in favour of this direction. However, there are real financial and health costs associated with making alcohol more accessible. 
The idea that increasing alcohol availability will save money for taxpayers is not true. In 2013-14, alcohol revenue and taxes generated a total of $3 billion dollars. However, the price tag for the social, health care, and law enforcement costs associated with alcohol misuse was over $5 billion. In simple terms, making alcohol more accessible will only cost taxpayers more money.

It may be surprising to know that alcohol is the second leading cause of death, disease, and disability in Canada. Increasing availability increases consumption but it’s not just heavy drinking that leads to poor health. Even one alcoholic beverage each day can lead to several different types of diseases including cancers of the breast, colon, liver, mouth and throat. Alcohol use can raise blood pressure which can lead to stroke and, in excess, alcohol is harmful to the heart. Socially, alcohol misuse is associated with community and family disruption, including violence and the devastating impacts of impaired driving.

There is a steep price to be paid for making alcohol more accessible. The concept of convenience will cost all of us more in the end. Our elected representatives must carefully weigh the pros and cons and act responsibly to protect the health and wellbeing of all Ontarians. 

This item was last modified on June 3, 2015