Commissioned by Health Canada, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) has updated the Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. The document is currently out for public consultation and the public and organizations are invited to participate. 

Éduc’alcool welcomes this initiative, which brings the topic of alcohol use and health back to the forefront. In our opinion, it is essential that the guidelines are perceived as acceptable by the public to avoid being counterproductive in terms of prevention. We have so far limited our comments, preferring to give our scientific advisors time to study the document in detail. As such, we will be submitting our comments and requesting clarification on certain aspects as part of the public consultation. 

Our experts believe that, as in other countries that have produced guidelines, the recommendations should be presented on a daily, rather than weekly, basis: not drinking during the week, only to drink all the drinks on Saturday, is not recommended! In addition, they believe that the guidelines would benefit from more clarity and substance on alcohol and pregnancy.  

That being said, Éduc’alcool does not set low-risk drinking guidelines, but rather incorporates them into its campaigns based on scientific evidence to ensure that the public is well informed. Our mission is to inform Quebecers about alcohol consumption in such a way as to encourage them to behave in moderation and with caution. It is important that the messages conveyed be valid and clear, with examples, in order to promote understanding and acceptance by the population. 

More than 30 years of empowering Quebecers 

Beyond the proposed new guidelines, Éduc’alcool has been committed for over 30 years to raising awareness among Quebecers of all ages about the impact of alcohol consumption, as evidenced by our numerous scientific publications on the link between alcohol and the risk of cancer, alcohol and pregnancy, and alcohol and cannabis. 

Proof that awareness efforts are working, recent data shows that 87% of Quebecers think it is not acceptable to drive after having two drinks in the last hour.   

We have recently refocused our approach to help Quebecers, especially young people, become more aware of their relationship with alcohol, in an educational and caring way. We need to give consumers the tools they need to make their own choices, without stigmatizing them. We believe that it is by first generating awareness that changes in behaviour can really take place. We are developing an easy-to-use tool to assess one’s relative level of risk in relation to alcohol, based on individual vulnerabilities. 

To this end, we want the guidelines to be clear, well supported, include both collective and individual actions, and appeal to people’s intelligence. Messages must be tailored to the populations being targeted and their consumption patterns.  

With respect to the CCSA proposal to display the number of standard drinks contained on containers based on alcohol content, we believe this is entirely appropriate. However, displaying the number of standard drinks is not an end in itself, and awareness-raising efforts must continue. In the short term, Éduc’alcool is considering the possibility of developing an educational tool on this subject.  

At Éduc’alcool, we believe that conscious, moderate drinking and the prevention of abuse are good for people’s health. In this perspective, we will continue to educate and sensitize Quebecers on the immediate and long-term risks of alcohol consumption with an approach based on science to inform the public with rigour. 

Geneviève Desautels 
Executive Director of Éduc’alcool 

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