Provincial Alcohol Policies: Learning from Quebec

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Each province in Canada has different policies and resources surrounding alcohol. In this new series, we will look at what is happening in each province to provide insight into how we can learn from each other. We’ll take inspiration for what we should be advocating for in our own provinces. Today we look to Quebec and the exciting work that the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ) is doing to give solutions for alcohol related harm. 

ASPQ released a document titled ‘Promising policies to reduce alcohol-related harms’. This gives an overview of initiatives that will promote safer drinking in Quebec. Below is a short summary of the policy ideas relevant to the prevention of FASD – you can read the full document online. 

Establishing a minimum price on alcohol 

Firstly, the report suggests that the cost of alcohol ‘has a direct influence on purchasing behavior and is a major determinant of excessive consumption, particularly among at-risk and vulnerable consumers’. It proposes that imposing a minimum price per drink would lower average alcohol consumption.  

Restricting sales and promotions on the price of alcohol 

Alcohol selling establishments often engage in promotions and sales to encourage customers to buy their products. These can be through reducing the price of alcoholic drinks for a short time or reductions on bulk buying the beverages. 

The report states that again, the cost of alcohol directly influences purchasing behaviors. It refences a Léger survey that found over 6 out of 10 people in Quebec said that alcohol promotions motivates them to drink more. 

Restricting sales and promotions of alcohol will move culture away from one that celebrates and encourages drinking. 

Restricting alcohol-related sponsorships 

In Quebec, alcohol companies and even the Société des alcools du Québec sponsor numerous sports events, festivals and concerts. The report advocates for expanding policies that are already in place to regulate cannabis and tobacco company sponsorship to include alcohol. 

Alcohol-related sponsorships perpetuate a culture that associates alcohol consumption with fun and socializing. By restricting these sponsorships, we can challenge these norms and encourage a shift towards healthier attitudes towards drinking.  

Prohibiting alcoholic product advertising displays in public spaces 

The report estimates that ‘every 10% increase in corporate spending on advertising increases alcohol consumption by up to 3% among the adult population’. 

The ASPQ advocates for banning adverts for alcohol in public spaces, near areas that minors regularly visit and along roads. This can help reduce societal pressure to pregnant people, people who might be pregnant and their support networks to drink alcohol. 

Adding warning messages to alcoholic beverages packaging 

An often-discussed tactic in the prevention field is the adding of warning labels to alcohol bottles. The report points out the benefits of adding warning signs but highlights that this alone will not work to reduce alcohol related harm. 

This is in line with CanFASD’s position on warning labels which was highlighted in our 2019 issue paper. The paper recommended that these labels should be used alongside other approaches as part of a comprehensive FASD prevention strategy to better encourage behavioural change. 

This section of the report mentions FASD directly stating:  ‘At least 2 out of 5 Quebecers consider it safe for the health of the unborn baby if a pregnant woman drinks alcohol once a month and a quarter believe it is safe for pregnant women to drink once a week. Half of respondents do not know what fetal alcohol disorders are.’ 

This data gives insight into the Quebec public’s current knowledge around FASD and where work needs to be done to improve public understanding. 

Conclusion – FASD Prevention and Alcohol Policies 

Acting on each of the above policies will make a big difference in nurturing a healthier society for supporting those who are or might be pregnant. At the moment, alcohol can be bought cheaply and is advertised in a way that is nearly impossible to escape from in our everyday lives. Tackling both issues will be a step forward in reducing FASD in our communities. 

Quebec and the rest of Canada have a long way to go when it comes to introducing policies that will prevent FASD. The ASPQ’s report offers alternatives to the current system.  

We encourage you to read the report in full and find out more about the policy ideas. The Prevention section of the CanFASD website also goes into detail about supportive alcohol policy that is needed to reduce the health and social harms from alcohol, including influencing rates of FASD. 

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