One of my most compelling bodies of work that one may not connect to a municipal councillor is in the area of alcohol. I inherited the role of the chair of the Substance Misuse Prevention Committee, SMPC, at its inception over 6 years ago when I was a school trustee representing the school district on the Social Planning Advisory Committee. We were tasked by council to develop a community substance misuse response strategy, which we did, and council adopted it in 2007. The document, “Putting the Pieces Together,” contains 33 recommendations defined by the community that guides our work. Since that time, the SMPC has been able to influence the creation of “bar watch” in our community, related public policy development, education, networking opportunities with different organizations, and has kept council informed on the latest trends in the area of substance misuse and the impacts of such on our community.
With countless high profile incidents and court cases involving substance abuse, it should be obvious that our number one substance that is misused is, in fact, a legal one: alcohol. The tragedy that surrounds alcohol misuse is well documented, and even if you don’t take the time to review such data, simply observing the growing number of roadside memorials has to be a red flag. I have seen it and it made me commit to work with others to curtail the escalating social and financial costs alcohol is having on our society–especially on our youth.
The Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia provides, among other things, research and policy analysis to guide effective policy development in the area of alcohol. If anyone thinks that the alcohol policies of Canada are effective, a read of Public Health’s 2008 research document “Public Health Approach to Alcohol Policy” would challenge that belief. Take for instance, the following excerpt from page one of the document: ” Alcohol misuse is a major issue in Canada, with direct and indirect health and social costs estimated at $14.5 billion in 2002, accounting for 36.6 per cent of total substance abuse related costs (Rehm et al., 2006). Alcohol also provides substantial economic and social benefits to Canadians. For example, governments in Canada took in approximately $7.7 billion in revenue from the sale and control of alcohol in fiscal year 2003 (Statistics Canada, 2004).” Although this is just the government related costs and revenues, it is very disturbing that the costs associated outweigh the revenue by almost double.
Now don’t get me wrong, most of the population fits into the responsible drinker category and I place myself firmly there, and I believe responsible drinking has a place in our society. However, with escalating health related costs, if we don’t embark on a stronger program of prevention like that done with tobacco, the social and financial fallout will not be tolerable. The work that the SMPC does on your behalf is trying to influence policy change and education to reverse this trend and it my pleasure to work with SMPC and related organizations to achieve this.
Did you know? If the trend continues, it is predicted that by 2013 alcohol related hospitalizations will surpass that of tobacco.