B.C. liquor prices should be increased to reduce illness and injuries, and alcoholic beverages should be given free to homeless alcoholics, addiction researchers at the University of Victoria say in a wide-ranging report.
It can cost as little as 58 cents for a standard drink bought through government-run BC Liquor Stores, meaning it costs as little as $2.32 for an average woman to exceed national guidelines for daily consumption and as little as $2.80 for an average man, the Centre for Addictions Research said in a report Thursday.
That cost is much lower than in Saskatchewan and Ontario, and the study recommends the B.C. government raise prices on the cheapest wines, ciders and beers.
'There's quite a lot of very cheap drinks out there.'—Addiction researcher Tim Stockwell
The price increase would have to go hand in hand with introducing alcohol harm-reduction programs for homeless problem drinkers, who could otherwise resort to hazardous sources such as rubbing alcohol or mouthwash, said the centre's lead researcher, Tim Stockwell.
Stockwell said similar programs in other jurisdictions, including Ontario, are proving worthwhile.
"The results are spectacular," he told CBC News. "There's reduced alcohol consumption. There's fewer admissions to hospital, to prison. So this is a group that needs stabilizing for accommodation, health and criminal behaviour as well."
The report authors looked at the price of every one of the 5,506 products on BC Liquor Store shelves and found the price of a standard drink ranged from 58 cents to $994.
"There's quite a lot of very cheap drinks out there," said Tim Stockwell.
Positive potential impact
He said raising the price to a $1.50 minimum could have a major impact on everything from hospital visits and traffic accidents, to venereal disease.
"I know it's not a very popular thing to say, but it's said in the interests of public health and safety," he added.
Researchers compared the price of alcohol in the province with six widely used illegal drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.
While the median price for a single dose of marijuana was lower at $1.87, the cheapest high could still be found at the liquor store.
Stockwell said there is plenty of evidence around the world to show that when the price of alcohol goes up, the negative consequences go down.
While the lead research in the study was done at the centre, it also had contributions from experts across Canada, the United States and Australia.