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

Rogers ‘enhances’ wireless in Qualicum Beach

Announcement part of a multi-year national network plan

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Blue Tie Campaign set to tee off Aug. 25

Annual event is fundraiser for the Island Prostate Centre

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

B.C. swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Most Read