Vancouver Island residents 16 and older consumed an average of 11.5 litres of absolute alcohol in 2016, which is equivalent to 667 standard drinks per year. File photo.

Alcohol consumption on the rise on Vancouver Island

The increase has led to more hospitalizations as a result of alcohol consumption

Recent data from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) shows that alcohol consumption is continuing to rise on Vancouver Island.

The University of Victoria-based institute has tracked alcohol consumption for over a decade through its BC alcohol and other drug monitoring (AOD) project.

CISUR’s recent data shows that Vancouver Island residents 16 and older consumed an average of 11.5 litres of absolute alcohol in 2016, which is equivalent to 667 standard drinks per year or 12.8 standard drinks per week.

(One standard drink equals: 341 ml of 5 per cent beer, cider or cooler, 43 ml (1.5 oz) shot of 40 per cent hard liquor, or a 142 ml (5 oz) glass of 12 per cent wine).

Vancouver Island’s statistics for liquor consumption are above the B.C. average of 9.4 litres of absolute alcohol per year.

CISUR director Dr. Tim Stockwell says relaxed liquor regulations in 2014 contributed to the increase in alcohol consumption. The provincial government implemented new policies on liquor sales that year in order to support liquor producers in B.C., as well as the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“After the liquor reforms kicked in in 2014, we had two [years] of the largest increase in per capita consumption,” he said. “It was a big initiative and they were keen to create favourable marketing conditions for B.C. winegrowers, craft brewers, distillers. All local manufacturers and retailers.”

Increased hospitalizations

The institute’s data also shows that hospitalizations as a direct result of alcohol consumption have increased more than 35 per cent on Vancouver Island since 2002.

Dr. Charmaine Enns, a regional health officer for Island Health, says the increasing consumption of alcohol is a “significant problem across Canada.” She noted how a 2017 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that more people were hospitalized for alcohol-related reasons in Canada than heart attacks in 2015-16.

“This is why we need to increase the conversation about alcohol,” she said. “For the most part, people are not really aware of the increasing amount of consumption and the increase in harms that go with consumption.”

Enns believes the normalization of drinking in society, as well as the 2014 liquor reforms, are why its use is increasing in B.C. and across Canada.

“On one hand, we’ve made it so much a part of everyday life, as well as how we socialize,” she said. “Secondly, we have policies and regulations that actually help promote the use of alcohol without counter-measures to help reduce harm.”

She said taxing alcohol in the same manner as tobacco, or implementing pricing controls, could be some ways to decrease liquor consumption.

“From a public health perspective, we’d very much like to see pricing that changes with alcohol content,” she said. “We should have minimum pricing that changes with inflation, and we should have pricing that reflects alcohol content.”

Stockwell agreed with Enns that regulated pricing could help stem the increase, though he acknowledged that people enjoy the freedom that came with relaxed regulations.

“Because a lot of people hate to be told what to do and have their access to alcohol — which is a very popular commodity — restricted, we have to have a very good and clear dialogue. People need information to make decisions,” he said.

“We need to reflect on the evidence. If we want to change things, we need to tighten things up in certain areas.”

For more information on the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, or its OAD project, click here.

Just Posted

Marine Harvest Upper Island Riptide U18 Girls bring home provincial gold

“This has been an extra-ordinary season with a diverse group of young ladies…”

Port Alice considers taking back Link River

Village debates not renewing agreement with RDMW

Living with obsessive compulsive disorder

The Big Read: Vancouver Island mom calls for more mental health services as son battles OCD

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

Port Alice Community Market open for business

The community market has been a draw to members of the community, as well as to tourists.

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

Fishin’ Corner: The Deserters Group is a pretty good early chinook producer

“This year salmon fishing has been pretty good, with the average size spring around 20-25 lbs.”

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations

Activists protest outside Kinder Morgan terminal in kayaks, canoes

Tsleil-Waututh elder Ta’ah Amy George led the water ceremony from a traditional Coast Salish canoe

Most Read