Privatization of liquor sales linked to increase in hospital visits | National Union of Public and General Employees

Privatization of liquor sales linked to increase in hospital visits

According to the study, alcohol-related visits to hospital emergency departments in Ontario increased by 17.8 per cent after grocery stores started to sell beer and wine.

Ottawa (01 April 2019) — A new study has linked the decision of the Ontario government to allow beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores to an increase in the number of alcohol-related visits to hospital emergency departments. According to the study, alcohol-related visits to hospital emergency departments in Ontario increased by 17.8 per cent after grocery stores started to sell beer and wine. That’s almost 3 times the increase for all hospital emergency visits in the same time period.

Clear link between allowing grocery stores to sell beer and wine and increase in hospital visits

Another finding was that in areas with grocery stores selling beer and wine, the increase in the number of alcohol-related visits to hospital emergency department was 6 per cent higher than in areas where there were no grocery stores selling beer and wine. That clearly links the rise in alcohol-related hospital emergency department visits to the decision to allow beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores.

The study, The Association between Alcohol Access and Alcohol-Attributable Emergency Department visits in Ontario, Canada, was done by academics from the University of Ottawa, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. They looked at the number of alcohol-related visits to emergency departments before and after the decision to allow grocery stores to sell beer and wine, while controlling for other factors that might affect the numbers.

Increase in grocery stores selling beer and wine means problem has likely gotten worse

At the time the study was conducted, the number of grocery stores selling beer and wine was still growing. Since the study was completed in 2017, the number of grocery stores selling beer, wine or cider has increased by over 150. That means it is safe to conclude that the number of hospital visits because of alcohol-related problems has also increased since 2017.

If the current Ontario government allows beer and wine to be sold in corner stores, the problem will get even worse.

Privatization inevitably leads to more stores selling alcoholic beverages

While the study was focused on the increase in the number of places selling alcoholic beverages as a result of the decision to allow grocery stores to sell beer and wine, in Canada privatization of liquor sales inevitably leads to more outlets. In the 3 provinces where liquor sales have been privatized or partially privatized, there has been a significant increase in the number of stores selling alcoholic beverages.

Public liquor stores best way to promote responsible drinking

As the study acknowledged, research has shown public liquor stores have a much better track record when it comes to discouraging alcohol abuse and promoting responsible drinking. Problems that other studies have found with privatization include high per capita alcohol consumption and less enforcement of rules intended to prevent underage youth getting access to alcohol

Members of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) working in public liquor stores across Canada take pride in helping consumers find beers, wines or spirits they’ll enjoy, but they also know that alcohol isn’t just another consumer product. When liquor sales are privatized, the goal becomes increasing sales regardless of the consequences. As the study ound when it looked at where the grocery stores selling beer and wine were located, “alcohol outlets may also be more likely to open in areas where alcohol-related demand and consequent harms are higher.”


NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE

 

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