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Alcohol Sales and Convenience Stores

A province-wide petition announced the week of July 23 called on the Province of Ontario to legalize the sale of alcoholic products in convenience stores. The following statement in reaction, from Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner, was sent to local media as a letter to the editor.

July 26, 2012
Letter to the Editor

The Ontario Convenience Store Association (OCSA) is again lobbying the government for its members to be able to sell alcohol (namely beer and wine) in convenience stores across the province. Dave Bryans, their CEO, is touting a petition, which does carry a number of signatures in support of such a change.

The fact of the matter is, however, that Ontarians don’t really want, or need, more access to alcohol than already exists. Last September, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) published a report called Ontarians’ Opinions About Alcohol Policy. The report showed that a strong majority – 73 per cent (95% confidence interval: 69%-76%) of Ontarians do not want alcohol to be available in corner stores. This anonymous, random-digit-dialing telephone survey provides an unbiased view of the Ontario landscape, far different than the biased petition being presented by the OCSA, which is only focusing on those who are in favour of this change.

In Simcoe Muskoka, more than one-quarter of all adults drink above the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines (LRDG), a rate that has remained significantly higher than the Ontario rate since 2000/2001. We know that drinking above the LRDG leads to a higher risk of developing chronic health problems, like cancer, heart disease and liver disease, and can eventually lead to premature death.

The evidence also indicates that where there is increased availability and access to alcohol, there is increased alcohol consumption, and as a result, increased alcohol-related harm. In fact, provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia, which have gone to privatized or semi-privatized alcohol sales systems, have seen increased alcohol-related harms in the form of violence, disease and even death. This is a direct result of increased access and availability of alcohol given a privatized system's increased emphasis on profitability.

For these reasons, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit does not support the sale of alcohol in convenience stores and encourages the government to consider the evidence and question the motives of the OCSA campaign.

Dr. Charles Gardner, MD, CCFP, MHSc, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health

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