A study by the University of Victoria shows alcohol consumption in B.C. is rising faster than in the rest of the country.
The study by the Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. indicates alcohol was responsible for an estimated 2,000 deaths in B.C. in 2009, and caused more than 20,000 hospital visits as a result of alcohol poisoning, falls or other injuries.
"Hospitalizations that are related to alcohol are a very good indicator of trends, of hazardous drinking and harm," said Dr. Tim Stockwell with the Centre for Addictions Research.
"They're probably the best measure we've got — better than surveys, better than desk data."
Stockwell said alcohol-related hospitalizations in B.C. have been steadily rising over the past decade, and are getting close to the number caused by tobacco.
He said the increase is being seen across the entire population regardless of age and gender, but there are some marked geographical differences.
"The North has the highest rates of deaths as well as hospitalizations from alcohol, whereas the Interior comes about second, Vancouver Island third — all of them are above average," he said.
"And below average is Vancouver … and the Fraser [Valley] area."
The numbers are no surprise to provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.
"There are a large number of diseases and illnesses that can be linked to dangerous alcohol consumption," he said. "We know that one of the most effective means of lowering alcohol consumption is actually pricing."
Stockwell agrees the most effective way to curb drinking is to make alcohol more expensive.
"The Ministry of Solicitor General and Public Safety have the power to set minimum prices already — the fact is they don't," he said.
"We're very familiar with alcohol and we take it for granted. It's not like milk and orange juice, and so we've got to look at rather different responses because it's not just an ordinary commodity."