In Ontario, an eventual election is on the horizon. One of the wedge issues is expected to be the deregulation of alcohol. Should we regulate alcohol, like it is done (for the most part) in Ontario, or deregulate them, like they have them in Quebec?
I have not made up my mind on the subject however I am becoming more reluctant to support its deregulation. In a week, at the invitation of a friend, Ruby Latif, I will be attending a Queens Park event to lobby elected officials and expose them to "awareness on the issue of deregulation of alcohol in Ontario". I am certainly going.
Beer Store President, Ted Moroz, recently came out against deregulation, warning that "alcohol prices will increase if the provincial government deregulates the sale of booze". He added, "Drinkers should expect to pay an average of $10 more for a two-four if corner stores are allowed to sell suds".
Mr. President, the saving of petty change should not be the main reason why one should or should not support deregulation -- at least for me.
Then again, when I lived in Ottawa, many Ontarians often travelled to the alcohol deregulated Hull, Quebec to purchase cheap alcohol. It was indeed cheaper and more convenient there. Without endorsing the notion of government knows best, I believe the debate should come down to the health and well-being of our population. This is the role of decent governments at its best -- to protect us from vulnerability.
I do not need to read studies nor expert perspectives to know that alcohol is addictive and a potential health hazard. I have seen close family members livelihood literally destroyed in earnest as a direct result of alcohol and I have understood through them it is addictive especially when its accessible easily.
The Ontario government, that has been hungry for public money, has looked at the expansion of the sale of alcohol, casinos and lotteries to pay for basic government services. A year ago, it even started a trial project offering all kinds of alcohol at grocery stores. In addition, it plans to target the youth population to be addicted to lotteries by paying for targeted advertisements.
Have we run of ideas? Are these good government decisions? They certainly are not.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA), motivated by the idea of making easy profits for its members, has called for deregulation and the sale of alcohols in corner stores ASAP. The group has even pointed out polls that show most Ontarians support competition. "What we're offering is more access, more convenience," the head of the association reflected with the Toronto Sun. "On a hot summer day; you could walk to your local convenience store and buy your six beers and your bottle of wine."
That is exactly why I am reluctant to support deregulation. Unless I hear better perspectives for deregulation, the convenience and access of alcohol, highly addictive products, are good reasons why they should continue to be regulated.
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According to a recent CAMH study on unhealthy drinking statistics worldwide, the world's heaviest drinkers live in Europe and parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
When it comes to unhealthy alcohol consumption, people in Eastern Europe and Southern Sub-Saharan Africa topped the list. People who live in these regions frequently consume large quantities of booze, drink to get intoxicated, engage in binge drinking, and consume alcohol without meals, according to CAMH.
According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) 2011 report on alcohol consumption around the world, alcohol abuse causes 2.5 million deaths each year.
Approximately 320,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 die from alcohol-related causes each year, according to the WHO.
Alcohol is now the third leading cause of the global burden of diseases and injuries, and in 2010, drinking booze had been linked to 200 different diseases and injuries, according to CAMH.
People in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia consumed the least amount of alcohol, according to CAMH.
Canadians consume more alcohol than the global average. People across North America are more likely to have detrimental drinking patterns and binge drink, according to CAMH.
Excessive alcohol consumption often weakens the immune system, according to the WHO. Harmful alcohol abuse has also been linked to several diseases like HIV/AIDS, STIs and tuberculosis.
Turns out Canadians in general prefer a pint of beer. About 53 per cent of alcohol consumption in Canada is beer, 27 per cent is spirits and 20 per cent is wine, according to the WHO.
In Canada, the highest causes of death linked with alcohol include liver cirrhosis (poor liver function) and road traffic accidents, according to the WHO.
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