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Medical journal cautions against easing access to booze

New article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal explores the impact of expanded alcohol sales in Ontario, calls for minimum pricing of alcohol products to avoid low-price competitions and a move toward warning labels to increase consumer awareness

A new article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) is critical of the idea of making it easier to buy alcohol in Ontario.

The article, Harms and costs of proposed changes in how alcohol is sold in Ontario, is authored by researchers Norman Giesbrecht, PhD, and Daniel T. Myran, MD MPH.

The authors explore the potential impacts of the Government of Ontario’s recently announced plans to improve “convenience and choice” for consumers starting in early 2026, by expanding alcohol sales into 8,500 new privately operated stores and decreasing the price of alcohol.

The article highlights the impact alcohol currently has on Canadian society, pointing out it already leads to approximately 17,000 deaths a year in Canada “and creates a larger health system burden and overall cost to society than any other substance," said the article.

The authors said Ontario’s move represents “the most substantial alcohol deregulation policy in Canada in decades” and, as evidenced in other jurisdictions with easier consumer access to alcohol, points out expanded access could lead to higher rates of consumption and more resulting harms. 

"... A large body of Canadian and international research cautions that these changes may lead to increased alcohol consumption and associated harms," said the article.

To curb some of these ill-effects, the authors said there are steps provincial and federal governments can take, including setting a minimum price on alcohol products to offset any potential "ultra-cheap" brand-pricing competitions. 

"We propose instituting mitigation policies at the provincial and federal level — including strengthening minimum pricing on alcohol, mandating warning labels on all alcoholic beverages, and increasing access to screening and treatment for alcohol use disorders — in anticipation of potential harms and costs related to the policy change," the authors wrote.

In conclusion, the authors wrote there is a public health imperative to justify not making it easier to buy alcohol.

"Although current evidence cannot precisely quantify the harms that may arise from the planned changes in Ontario, a public health imperative exists for the government to consider changing course, and for other levels of government and health system planners to implement mitigation strategies," said the article.

The full text of the CMAJ article can be found online here.

Len Gillis covers health care and mining for

Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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