Evidence-informed policy actions to reduce alcohol consumption

Learn how local, provincial and territorial governments can reduce alcohol consumption by implementing evidence-informed policies

Several policies regulating access, availability and marketing of alcohol are shown to be effective in lowering alcohol consumption and related harms.

Policy interventions

Limiting hours of sale1

  • Reducing hours of alcohol sale may reduce consumption and harm, as evidence indicates increases in the amount of time when alcohol is available is associated with increases in consumption.2

Limiting the number of physical outlets where alcohol is sold3

  • Generally, increased outlet density was associated with increases in alcohol-related harms.4
  • Emerging evidence indicates that reducing the density of alcohol outlets impacts consumption and reduces chronic health harms.5

Increasing alcohol prices6

  • Minimum prices effectively reduce health and other harms, and have a greater effect on the heaviest drinkers who experience the greatest harms.7
  • Increasing Social Reference Prices by 10 per cent in Saskatchewan led to an 8.4 per cent drop in alcohol sales.8
  • Increasing minimum prices in British Columbia demonstrated improvements in alcohol-related health outcomes.9

Increasing alcohol taxes10

  • Increasing tax is associated with a proportionate reduction in alcohol consumption and harms.11
  • Combined taxation and minimum unit pricing increases positive impacts on health compared with either strategy on its own.12
  • 10 per cent increase in prices due to taxation results in a 5 percent reduction in consumption.13
  • Doubling sales taxes reduces alcohol-related mortality by an average of 35 per cent.14
  • In Finland, reducing taxes increased consumption by 10 per cent and alcohol-attributable deaths by 19 per cent.15

Restricting alcohol advertising and promotion16

  • Complete advertising bans are effective in reducing alcohol-related morbidity and mortality.17
  • Industry self-regulation is unlikely to be effective.18
  • Labelling alcohol with health warnings increases knowledge and awareness. However, effectiveness in reducing consumption is not yet demonstrated in peer-reviewed literature.19

Maintaining public monopolization/limiting privatization of alcohol retail20

  • Government monopolies significantly reduce alcohol-related harm at the population
    level.21

Levels of adoption

To understand the extent to which evidence-informed alcohol policy actions across Canada have been adopted, policies were analyzed from within the Prevention Policies Directory (31 municipalities captured by this tool). Evidence-informed alcohol policy actions were derived from multiple sources.

A level of adoption in Canada (low, medium or high) was assigned to each evidence-informed policy action to help illustrate areas of strength and weakness across the country:

  • Low = very few jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action
  • Medium = some, but not all jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action
  • High = most jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action

Levels of adoption in cities

Click on each policy action in the table below for more information on current actions across 31 municipalities in Canada:*

Policy issue Policy action Level of adoption
Alcohol availability Limit hours of sale Low
Limit density of on- and off-premise alcohol outlets Low
Alcohol pricing Impose or increase taxes on alcohol Low
Establish minimum pricing, indexed to inflation, at or above customer index price Low
Adopt disincentive pricing for higher alcohol content products Low
Alcohol advertising and promotion Enforce and expand regulation of alcohol advertising content and formats Low
Enforce and expand regulation of alcohol sponsorship Low
Implement health warning labels on alcohol products Low

*Prevention Policies Directory captures information for 31 Canadian municipalities (18 largest municipalities in Canada, and at least 1 to 2 of the largest municipalities in all other provinces/territories).

Levels of adoption in provinces and territories

Click on each policy action in the table below for more information on current actions:

Policy issue Policy action Level of adoption
Alcohol availability Limit privatization of alcohol retail Low
Limit hours of sale Low
Limit density of on- and off-premise alcohol outlets Low
Alcohol pricing Impose or increase taxes on alcohol Medium
Establish minimum pricing, indexed to inflation, at or above customer index price Medium
Adopt disincentive pricing for higher alcohol content products Low
Alcohol advertising and promotion Enforce and expand regulation of alcohol advertising content and formats Medium
Enforce and expand regulation of alcohol sponsorship Low
Implement health warning labels on alcohol products Low