Keep potent, boozy drinks out of young hands, experts urge

Concerns raised about limiting alcohol content, moving away from deceptive advertising and reducing sugar

Substance abuse experts, medical professionals and industry leaders kicked off what they hope will become a national conversation Monday about keeping pre-mixed drinks loaded with alcohol, caffeine and sugar off shelves and away from young people.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Abuse was among the groups that testified before a House of Commons committee about how to best restrict the sale and consumption of the controversial beverages, which are popular among minors and young adults.

“We were asked to come up with recommendations to limit both the physical availability and the affordability of these drinks,” said Dr. Catherine Paradis, a senior researcher with the centre.

She said making the drinks with ethyl alcohol, rather than fermented malt, would make them more expensive and limit where they are sold.

Ethyl alcohol would be subject to excise duties, meaning taxes on cans of highly-sweetened alcoholic beverages would jump from 18 cents to 82 cents per can, Paradis told the committee. They would also have to be sold in publicly owned outlets, rather than convenience stores.

“When you know those drinks are especially popular among minors, that’s a huge deal,” Paradis said in an interview.

A national outcry about the accessibility of the drinks erupted earlier this year following the accidental death of 14-year-old Athena Gervais in Laval, Que. Police are awaiting a toxicology report to determine whether a sugary alcoholic beverage sold in Quebec was a contributing factor.

The day she died, Gervais allegedly consumed a product called FCKD UP, which boasts an alcohol content of 11.9 per cent in a single 568-ml can — a size equivalent to four alcoholic drinks. The province pulled the drink from stores across Quebec, but similar alternatives remain for sale.

Reducing the size of containers, limiting their alcohol content, moving away from deceptive advertising and reducing sugar content — which masks the taste of alcohol — were other solutions proposed by witnesses at the committee.

Gervais’s death served as a catalyst for provincial and federal action in the days and weeks following the tragic event, but Paradis said the problem with the beverages was already well-known.

“I think that’s the sad part about it,” she said. “At least in Quebec, last November there was a series of articles in La Presse where it was made known that those products were made available to youth and a catastrophe was about to happen.”

After Gervais’ death, Health Canada issued an online alert in March of this year, warning youth of the risks associated with the beverages. The health agency announced plans to amend food and drug regulations soon after, entering into a period of public consultations scheduled to end May 8.

Karen McIntyre, a director general with Health Canada, told the committee that the agency hopes for a fall rollout for the new regulations and that it has already consulted with the provinces and territories.

“It’s not just Health Canada’s role,” she said. “It’s open to all Canadians. It includes experts, key stakeholders, health professionals.”

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

North Road proposal draws heat

Public meeting to address Canfor request

First farmers market fosters a sense of community

Vendors and customers alike excited for return of market

Chief Dr. Robert Joseph awarded Order of Canada

An inspiration and role model for all Canadians

Workshop to help businesses find that perfect employee

Selling location and lifestyle one strategy for success

National ecology expert holds workshop in Fort St. James

Use of natural materials vital for environmental restoration

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Whitecaps rally for 2-2 draw with FC Dallas

Vancouver climbed out of a two-nil hole to tie FC Dallas 2-2

B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Searchers for Vancouver Island father turn focus to Cowichan River

Cowichan SAR joined by many other SAR groups, volunteers now determined to find missing man

Most Read