Toronto's medical officer of health raises concerns about proposal to sell alcohol earlier
Toronto’s medical officer of health has authored a new report that suggests offering alcohol at restaurants earlier in the day may not be such a great idea.
In February, city council voted in favour of asking the provincial government to give restaurants the green light to sell alcoholic drinks starting at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, two hours sooner than what is currently permitted.
The motion was put forward by Coun. Paula Fletcher, who said the change would level the playing field between restaurants and grocery stores.
“Loblaws can sell wine at 9 a.m., (but) a business two blocks away can’t sell a glass of wine until eleven,” Fletcher, who represents Ward 14, said earlier this year. “They would just like to be able to give a glass of wine or a mimosa to their customers coming in for brunch.”
In the report by Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s top doctor raised concerns about troubling trends surrounding alcohol consumption.
She noted that while the number of Ontario adults consuming alcohol has remained stable over the past 20 years, the amount of alcohol consumed per person has “increased significantly.”
“In particular, average weekly consumption among women has increased by 90% between 1996 and 2017,” she wrote.
“Serious concerns related to this increase and to the social acceptance of alcohol consumption were raised by Canada's Chief Public Health Officer in the 2018 Report on the State of Public Health in Canada.”
She said that since 2014, one “emerging issue” has been the increase in access to alcohol.
“Evidence has shown that increasing the availability of alcohol (for example, adding more access points, extending the hours of sale and service, or lowering purchase price), is associated with increased alcohol consumption and alcohol-related health and social harms.”
She noted that in Ontario, access has increased over the last five years with beer, wine, and cider now sold in more than 350 grocery stores. She said that the LCBO continues to “enhance its online retail presence” and recently, the retail hours were expanded so that alcohol can now be sold from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays.
“Evidence indicates that government policy strategies such as socially responsible pricing of alcoholic beverages, limits on the number of retail outlets, hours of sale and service, and marketing controls can mitigate the harms from alcohol consumption,” de Villa wrote.
She urged the province to develop a “provincial alcohol strategy” to address the health and social harms, as well as the economic costs and public safety impacts of alcohol consumption.
The Toronto Board of Health will be discussing the report at a meeting today.