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Current Year Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Sobriety Test: CAMH Report Rates Provinces on Alcohol Policies

March 06, 2013 (Toronto) – The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has released a national report scoring each province on their alcohol policies. Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia received the highest scores, while Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland received the lowest.

Alcohol is one of the leading causes of disease and disability in Canada and around the world. According to Health Canada, 4 to 5 million Canadians engage in high-risk drinking which can be responsible for significant health and social costs.

The report, titled “Strategies to Reduce Alcohol-Related Harms and Costs in Canada:A Comparison of Provincial Policies,” looked at 10 policies that can impact alcohol use or its societal costs. Each province was scored on the degree to which they have implemented precautionary alcohol policies.

”Alcohol use is associated with injuries, chronic disease, cancer, and physical and sexual violence,  and globally ranks third after high blood pressure and  tobacco as a contributor to disease and disability,” said Dr. Norman Giesbrecht, Senior Scientist at CAMH. “It’s a public health issue, and in order to reduce its harms, a combination of evidence-based policies and prevention strategies is required. By collecting data from each province on their alcohol policies in areas like pricing, availability, advertising, and drinking and driving counter-measures, we can  see how each province can improve.”

Ontario scored highly on controlling the availability of alcohol, on strategies to deter drinking and driving and policies that regulate alcohol advertising and marketing practices, which were areas other provinces needed to improve upon.

Ontario also received high scores for adjusting  alcohol prices  based on alcohol content,  for its restriction of certain types of ads and for having a clearly identified advertising enforcement authority and complaint process.

Other highlights from the study:

  • New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador were the only provinces to place limitations on the quantity of alcohol advertisements.
  • Over 60 per cent of alcohol retailers in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. are government owned, resulting in high scores for their control system.
  • All provinces scored well with legal drinking age by having legislation in place that prohibits the sale and purchase of alcohol to a minor and having enforcement of the minimum legal drinking age in all types of alcohol outlets (liquor stores, bars, restaurants, etc).
  • British Columbia and Ontario received top scores for identifying  physician screening for problem alcohol use as a priority area while other provinces had little to no activity in this area.
  • British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and P.E.I have province-wide, mandatory server training programs for staff at all public establishments. Ontario and Manitoba increased their score by also requiring staff at licensed events to be trained in responsible alcohol service.
  • Alberta and Nova Scotia had high scores for their provincial alcohol strategies, being the only provinces to create alcohol-focused provincial strategies.

Researchers hope that these findings will cause policymakers to take another look at their alcohol policies and make significant changes.

This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and included data from the Provincial Liquor Boards and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD) Canada.


The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital, as well as one of the world's leading research centres in its field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit 

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