More liquor controls needed: psychologist

Maan Alhmidi 

Published: Apr 24, 2019 at 4:39 p.m.

Nova Scotia ought to maintain more control over selling booze, says a St. Francis Xavier University psychologist.

The public sector runs only 35 per cent of Nova Scotia’s alcohol-selling stores due to ongoing privatization, said Kara Thompson, an assistant professor at St. FX.

“We have a really high density of establishments and we don’t set limits on that density,” Thompson said. “So, you can have as many stores as you want to give licenses for.”

Easily accessible alcohol tends to be associated with greater consumption, she said.

Limiting access to alcohol is one of the recommendations of a new study Thompson and other researchers conducted at St. FX.

The researchers found that Atlantic Canada has some of the best policies in the country to combat impaired driving. But our provinces also have a higher number of on-premise alcohol outlets, such as brew pubs, per capita when compared to the rest of Canada.

Pricing policies need to be reviewed as well, according to Thompson. A higher minimum price for booze would help reduce the health issues that come with drinking too much, she said.

Nova Scotia doesn’t do a good job advertising health and safety messages with alcohol products, Thompson said.

“We do that with all kinds of products … like with drugs, tobacco and hot tubs,” Thompson said with a laugh.

“We don’t have to tell people that alcohol’s associated with cancer, or that its associated with heart disease.” That has to change, she said.

Warnings about health issues connected to alcohol are mandatory in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Nova Scotia should adopt mandatory measures already in place in other provinces including signs near the cashier in liquor stores with health warnings, telling consumers about the dangers of drinking and driving, consuming alcohol while pregnant, or serving minors, she said.

Her study estimates the health cost of alcohol consumption in Atlantic Canada to be around $1.1 billion per year.

That includes more mortality and morbidity, higher crime rates, greater law enforcement costs due to alcohol, and loss of productivity in the workforce.

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