Pricing not the only factor in alcohol abuse

Reader writes that marketing and availability are equally important

Re: Raise minimum booze prices: study (News, Jan. 6)

I chaired a Mayor’s Alcohol Abuse Task Force for three years that had a significant impact on alcohol abuse. I can tell you that “availability and marketing” has a much greater impact on alcohol abuse than pricing.

Pricing is a factor, however, since British Columbians are already paying excessive prices for all legal alcohol products. Our government says this provides significant funding (read millions of dollars) to subsidize a number of our health and social programs. Increasing the cost for alcohol even further, in all likelihood, will increase the sale of illegal liquor, as is the case with cigarettes. Government studies have indicated about 50 per cent of cigarettes sold in Canada are now contraband.

My other point, besides what was the motivation and who commissioned this study and for what purpose, is why, since 2003, has the province systematically allowed private liquor stores to sell alcohol and reduced the number of government liquor stores?

University of Victoria research indicates that due to marketing and availability, private liquor stores have contributed to the number of alcohol-related deaths. The research report states the private sector is better at marketing and selling liquor than government. Unlike government liquor stores, the private sector is open longer and will tailor their quality and price to clientele, which explains why Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has the cheapest booze in the province.

Several previous attempts by B.C. governments to privatize liquor over the past 30 years failed due to public pressure. The main government position has been privatization will allow alcohol to be cheaper and more available.

So it seems there has to be correlation between the research and the liquor control policy and initiatives, if harm is to be reduced and alcohol deaths are to be avoided.

Anthony Mears

Oak Bay