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Rethinking Alcohol: The Impact Alcohol Has on Nova Scotians’ Health

There’s been a lot of discussion around the impact of alcohol consumption in our province. We’ve heard saddening stories, the troubling findings of the 2012 Student Drug Use Survey, and recommendations on modernizing our province’s Liquor Commission. All of this information has lead to a heated debate about what’s best for our province.

Here are some facts about alcohol consumption and the impact it has on the health of all of us:

Nova Scotians drink more often
According to Statistics Canada in 2012, the percentage of Canadians who reported binge drinking (also called “heavy drinking”  meaning having more than five drinks on one occasion at least once per month) was 17.4% while in Nova Scotia it was 22.3%

The recently released 2012 Student Drug Survey found that our province’s children are taking their first drink at 13 years of age, and 27% of students surveyed reported binge drinking in the last 30 days.

There’s health risks associated with drinking
Alcohol consumption puts individuals at an increased risk of being injured, visiting an emergency room, or experiencing sexual violence. Moderate consumption can also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and depression, as well as many forms of cancer. Research indicates that there is a dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, so the more Nova Scotians drink the greater their risk of developing cancer.

Privatization increases risks and doesn’t save money
Providing increased access to alcoholic beverages, through selling it in convenience stores and grocery stores, would result in increased alcohol consumption. There’s been research conducted around the partial privatization and privatization of liquor commissions in British Columbia and Alberta. The results show an increase in outlet density, an increase in rates of alcohol-related deaths, low compliance rates for enforcing minimum legal purchasing ages, and increases in excessive alcohol consumption.

When per capita consumption of alcohol increases so does alcohol related expenses. When more alcohol is consumed there is a substantial increase in direct and indirect costs to the province, such as health-care costs, criminality problems, productivity loss and premature mortality. In Nova Scotia, a preliminary cost-benefit analysis indicated that while the 2006 provincial revenue from alcohol was $224 million, the documented health, justice and other costs associated with alcohol harm totalled $242.9 million. These costs would increase with privatization.

Is there any good news?
For the first time, the government of Canada has developed a set of low risk alcohol drinking guidelines to help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce short and long-term alcohol-related harm. The guidelines are informed by the most recent and best available scientific research and evidence.

Do you think Nova Scotians needs to reconsider how we consume alcohol? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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