Alberta's top doctor wants the price of liquor to be raised in the province, in an effort to curb binge drinking among young people.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. James Talbot said making alcohol pricier would help reduce drinking among young people because they usually have lower incomes.
"They're going to be productive members of society for a long time and we want them to be aware of the potential health effects like impaired decision-making and motor vehicle collisions," Talbot told CBC News.
Talbot said alcohol-related problems cost the provincial health system more than $1.5 billion a year in health-care and policing costs. He said binge drinking is on the rise especially among Albertans aged 12 to 19 years — with 19 per cent binge drinking in 2008, up from 13 per cent in 2002.
"We don't want to interfere with people who are drinking responsibly. But you also want to make it hard for people to do harm to themselves or other people."
Talbot said alcohol is much more available to young people now than in the past.
"Marketing of product that are more attractive to the youth like jello shots or drinks that are sweetened. There's been an increase in use generally."
Students give mixed reaction to proposal
At the University of Alberta, where students this week returned to classes, there was mixed reaction Thursday to the proposed liquor tax.
"I do not know if putting a tax on it would really help it, I think personal responsibility. People need to take charge a little bit," Melanie Trudeau said.
First-year student Daniel Sullivan said increasing prices would probably influence his consumption.
"I probably wouldn't drink as much," he said.
The university has taken its own steps to curb underage drinking.
In 2009, it launched a campaign to educate its students with an anonymous online test.
"We know that [binge drinking] does happen on campus," said Deborah Eerkes, director of student judicial affairs at the University of Alberta.
"What we want to do is make sure that when students are drinking out of the normal range is that they understand that's the case, and then they can decide to make changes."