Learn about regulating alcohol advertising to reduce alcohol consumption

Alcohol advertising and promotion in cities

Issue
Restrict or ban alcohol advertising and promotions1,2,3

Action
Enforce and expand regulation of alcohol advertising content and formats2

Degree of adoption in 31 Canadian municipalities
Low

Current actions in Canada
A few local governments across Canada use a variety of bylaws to regulate or restrict alcohol advertising and, or promotions:

  • Saskatoon Transit Advertising Policy prohibits alcohol advertisements on transit. The Recreation Facilities Policy restricts alcohol advertising at recreation facilities.
  • Hamilton’s MAP prohibits advertising of alcohol beverage names, brands or manufacturers at events frequented by youth.
  • Halifax’s MAP requires approval of alcohol advertising on municipal property, including transit, and inclusion of messages about consumption of alcohol and options for safe transportation in accordance with Low Risk Drinking Guidelines. In addition, the policy restricts alcohol ads, promotion of products and brands, or distribution of promotional items on municipal property except by permit or permanent liquor license.
  • Ottawa’s MAP does not permit marketing practices that encourage increased or immoderate consumption, such as oversized drinks, double shots of spirits, drinking contests, liquor raffles and volume discounts. In addition, no alcohol advertising is permitted on municipal premises frequented by youth, unless Director approval is received.
  • Brampton’s MAP bans alcohol at events where the focus is on youth under 19, minor sports events and street and block parties.
  • Caledon’s MAP bans alcohol permits for events for youth, including minor sport events.

Local policy toolsa,b

  • Municipal Alcohol Policy (MAP)
  • Parks and recreation bylaws
  • Sponsorship bylaws and policy
  • Sign bylaws
  • Public transit bylaws
  • Land use and zoning bylaws
  • Business licence bylaws

Examples of local actiona,b
Municipalities can strengthen MAPs or introduce other bylaws to restrict or prohibit the advertising and promotion of alcohol on municipal owned land, facilities and, or at municipal events. Strengthen MAPs or introduce other bylaws to prohibit advertising and conducting Happy Hour sales and other discounts. Through other bylaws, such as sign or zoning bylaws, municipalities can control the location, size and type of signs that are displayed in front of alcohol establishments and other places.

Alcohol advertising and promotion in provinces and territories

Issue
Restrict or ban alcohol advertising and promotions1,2,3

Action
Enforce and expand regulation of alcohol advertising content and formats2

Degree of adoption in Canada
Medium

Current actions in Canada
Adoption of evidence-informed policy action related to enforcing and expanding regulation of alcohol advertising content and formats across Canada is medium. Although most provinces and territories have advertising-content restrictions for alcoholic beverages that exceed the Code for broadcast advertising of alcoholic beverages set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), measures are varied across provinces and territories.

Various advertising formats are also permitted across most provinces and territories with some restrictions. However, exemptions to the Code and format restrictions are provided for advertisements that promote social responsibility, such as those that address cancer and chronic disease prevention.

All provinces and territories must adhere to the CRTC Code for broadcast advertising of alcoholic beverages, which prohibits content directed at minors and content that promotes misuse of alcohol, social acceptance, success and depicts other lifestyle benefits. Most provinces and territories have implemented various additional policy measures that exceed the Code:

  • Saskatchewan includes zoning restrictions for placement of advertisements near elementary or secondary schools or places of worship.
  • New Brunswick includes restrictions on the frequency of advertisement in radio and television formats.
  • Prince Edward Island, Québec and Ontario also prohibit the representation of alcoholic beverages as being beneficial to health or possessing a nutritive or curative value.

A few provinces and territories have restrictions on advertising price promotions. Ontario, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories are not permitted to use language within advertisements that suggest that beverages are cheap or low cost, such as with the advertisement of Happy Hour specials, and New Brunswick cannot advertise free beverages in dining rooms.

Most provinces and territories permit alcohol advertising in various formats such as print (magazines and newspapers), radio and television, billboards, signs and online formats, given that they comply with the CRTC Code and additional advertising restrictions set by the jurisdiction where applicable, and are approved by alcohol-control governing bodies.

Prince Edward Island does not permit advertising by billboard or illuminated sign but provides exemptions for its liquor commission and agency stores. Yukon and Nunavut also do not permit advertising of alcohol in print, radio and television, billboard, or electric or illuminated sign formats unless approved by liquor-control governing bodies.

Most provinces and territories grant exemptions to advertising content and format restrictions that promote social responsibility or worthwhile causes, such as promoting awareness of responsible levels of consumption and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.