The liquor industry needs to work with alcohol consumption experiments, not against them

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With the limited resources that come with a population of just under 36,000 people, it’s not surprising that even a hint of a lawsuit from the Canadian liquor industry players was enough to snuff out an experiment like the one recently held in the Yukon. 

In the fall, the Canadian government financed an experiment that could help to understand how to prevent excessive drinking. The study, which involved putting labels on liquor products warning of the health risks of alcohol consumption in the Yukon, was to take place over a period of eight months. However, lobbying groups representing Canada’s breweries, wineries and distilleries argued the labels could damage their brands. As a result, they pressured the Yukon into stopping the experiment just one month after it started. 

It’s disappointing to see corporate interests overpower the public’s education on their own health in any scenario. The full range of health risks associated with drinking aren’t widely known. In addition to long-term alcoholism, even light drinking habits have their risks. Informing the public of those possibilities is a responsibility the liquor industry has yet to live up to. With the barring of this study, this group is actively pushing against research into alcohol consumption. 

It’s easy to place blame on the Yukon for backing out of the experiment early without any actual legal action taking place against them. However, when an industry with incredible power and resources even alludes to suing a financially limited province, it’s easy to see why they would need to back down without a fight. 

The Yukon, which has the highest rate of alcohol consumption per capita in the country, shouldn’t have been left to fend for itself in the first place. Provincial governments need to be able to protect research projects like this, especially when alcoholism is such a widespread issue in Canada and across the world. 

It was a purely self-serving move for the industry to put pressure on the Yukon when it’s well known that the territory doesn’t have the means to withstand a legal battle. As a country, we need to make a commitment to furthering research into alcohol consumption and studies like this are the key to that. When they can be blocked with minimal effort by the liquor industry, there’s a very real problem with access to health information within this country. 

Consumers need to be able to know what they’re buying, especially if a product poses significant health risks. There’s no valid argument against communicating that to the public. This survey had the potential to add to addiction and health research in Canada. 

It’s one thing for the liquor industry to be interested in protecting their branding, but it’s quite another to play a role in undermining a study that could lead to increased awareness of safe drinking habits and the health risks associated with the product being sold.

— Journal Editorial Board

 

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