Peterborough’s medical officer of health raises concerns with Premier Doug Ford’s ‘buck-a-beer’ plan

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"Buck-a-beer" plan raises concerns with Peterborough's medical officer of health – Aug 8, 2018

With Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s “buck-a-beer” plan set to go into effect on August 27, health experts are warning of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

The alliterative phrase a “buck-a-beer” sounds good, and it’s even fun to say but what are the risks associated with making beer cheaper and more readily available across the province?

Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Peterborough’s medical officer of health, says alcohol is a leading cause of harm in terms of substances and is related to 200 diseases, making alcohol consumption second only to tobacco in terms of risks.

READ MORE: Doug Ford’s ‘buck-a-beer’ doesn’t mean $1 beer across the board — here’s why

“Here in Peterborough alone, each year we estimate we are spending over $51 million a year in alcohol-related harms, and that’s when you take into account not only the health-care costs but the loss of productivity and also the policing costs,” Salvaterra said.

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On Tuesday, Premier Ford announced that budget beer was going to be making a comeback, dropping the minimum price for a bottle or can of beer to $1 from $1.25.

On August 27, those brewers who wish to take part in the “buck-a-beer” challenge can do so, as the province has reduced the minimum price of beer.

READ MORE: ‘Buck-a-beer’ to be available in Ontario beginning Aug. 27

No subsidies or tax breaks will be given to the brewers, said Ford, just incentives at the LCBO.

Peterborough Public Health says reducing the cost of beer would make alcohol more accessible to price-sensitive or vulnerable people.

“We know from research whether it’s tobacco or other substances, that youth are very price-sensitive and pricing and taxation is one way to prevent overconsumption,” said Salvaterra.

READ MORE: Doug Ford government to move forward with ‘Buck-A-Beer’ promise

The Peterborough chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is asking the premier to give the “buck-a-beer initiative a sober second thought. Locally, the organization believes it will lead to an increase in impaired driving.

“Instead of looking at it as a benefit, we would hope that he [Premier Ford] would consider people who are at risk and suffering from alcohol-related illnesses and when you are making it cheaper for them to consume alcohol on a more regular basis, what are you doing to assist those people?” said MADD Peterborough’s Marc Gravelle.
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“We think locally that this has the capacity to increase our impaired-driving infractions due to added consumption and access to alcohol.”

From a public-health perspective, it’s about making alcohol less accessible to reduce health risks.

“We all love the convenience of accessing alcohol at the corner store but there are lots of reasons making it more accessible will create more harms,” said Salvaterra.

All three local craft breweries including Smithhavens Brewery, Beard Free Brewing, and The Publican House said they won’t be participating in the buck-a-beer challenge.

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