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Liquor industry fires back at study that says alcohol use costs society billions each year

Substance use including alcohol, tobacco & illegal drugs costs Canadian society $38.4 billion annually

According to Canada’s liquor industry, a recent study released by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) and funded by Health Canada that found liquor consumption fallout costs Canadians billions each year, fails to discuss some of the positive trends lead by industry, government and NGOs.

“CCSA is an excellent organization that publishes a lot of thoughtful research,” says Luke Harford, President of Beer Canada. “But these cost studies come with a lot of moving parts aimed at producing the highest and most alarming numbers.”

Almost two-thirds of the cost estimate for alcohol in the study relate to productivity losses and the criminal justice system. These costs are contentious and subject to ongoing debate among health economists, says a statement issued jointly by Beer Canada, Canadian Vintners Association and Spirits Canada. The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, for example, have advised against including loss of production in cost of substance use studies.

“There are a lot of assumptions built into these types of cost studies and CCSA’s new study is no different,” says Harford. “The assumptions boost the costs and downplay, trivialize or ignore any benefits.”

Recent trends show more and more Canadians are making responsible choices including moderate consumption based on Canada’s Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines, which recommend adults limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks a day for women and three drinks a day for men as part of a balanced lifestyle.

“Today’s impaired driving levels are at an historic low in Canada and awareness activities by Canada’s beer, wine and spirits makers contributed significantly to this progress,” says Dan Paszkowski, President and CEO of the Canadian Vintners Association.

“There is more to be done for sure but progress is being made, and in Canada the vast majority of adults drink alcohol in a balanced and responsible manner.”


  • In 2016 impaired driving declined for the fifth consecutive year reaching a historical low with the rate falling by 66% since 1986, and by 3% over the previous year (Statistics Canada, Police-reported Crime Statistics in Canada, 2016, July 24, 2017)
  • Past-year alcohol use for Canadians of 15-24 years of age fell from 83% in 2004 to 71% in 2015. Health Canada Surveys: 2004 CAS2012 CADUMS and 2015 CTADS).
  • The longest ongoing school survey in Canada, and one of the longest in the world, the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), reports significant decreases in past year alcohol use (more than a few sips) among students during the period from 1999 to 2017, from 66% to 43% (CAMH, Drug Use among Ontario Students, OSDUHS, 2017).
  • OECD data indicates Canada ranks only 26th out of a total of 44 countries by level of alcohol consumption (OECD Indicators, Health at a Glance 2017November 10, 2017).

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