UVic News – University of Victoria


As we enter our second summer in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and communities seek ways to enable safe social interactions, many Canadian municipalities are considering or, as Penticton and Edmonton have already authorized alcohol consumption in public spaces such as parks, beaches and city squares. This week, Vancouver launched her own alcohol pilot in parks.

While a beer at the beach may seem like a good idea to some, allowing consumption in these spaces can not only change their atmosphere, but also be bad for public health in the long run. Researchers at UVic’s Substance Use Research Institute of Canada (CISUR), led by Director Dr. Tim Naimi, have created Not Just a Walk in the Park: Unsupervised Alcohol Consumption on Municipal Property in British Columbia, an evidence-based, public health-focused guide for municipalities considering allowing alcohol consumption in outdoor public spaces.

Q: Why is not Is it a good idea to allow alcohol consumption in public spaces like parks and beaches?

A: Because there are important public health considerations to take into account. As we know, alcohol can have serious negative effects on health and is responsible, even in low doses, for a wide range of diseases, including several types of cancer. And the side effects of alcohol, including violence resulting from the consumption of alcohol by other people, are especially common when it comes to drinking in public.

It also creates a feeling of “normalization” that we should be consuming alcohol everywhere and all the time. In addition, municipalities, which were overwhelmed by many stresses during COVID, will be taxed even more by having to enforce or monitor alcohol consumption in public places, collect alcohol-related waste in parks and public places. beaches, and possibly incur legal liability for damage to persons. get drunk on their property.

Q: One of the main arguments for allowing this is that the hospitality industry has really suffered during COVID and it could give them a boost. How will allowing alcohol consumption in such public spaces help restaurants and pubs?

A: It is important to remember that many sectors of the alcohol industry, such as liquor producers and liquor stores, actually flourished during the pandemic. But for other sectors like hotel businesses, including restaurants and pubs, allowing alcohol consumption in public spaces could hurt, not help, recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. Indeed, people who wish to drink outside their home can now buy cheaper alcohol in liquor stores and simply drink in municipal spaces instead of frequenting restaurants and pubs, which would further distract more business from them.

Q: Why is it important to provide these tips on drinking alcohol in municipal public spaces now?

A: There was a sense of urgency to make things better for people in response to the pandemic. I think allowing alcohol consumption in public spaces like parks, beaches, and city squares is a well-intentioned but ill-advised effort to do so. We must remember that the COVID-19 pandemic will hopefully end soon, and the decisions we rush now can become permanent parts of our social landscape – and will not necessarily change them for the better. that relates to community health outcomes.

Q: What recommendations do you make to municipalities considering allowing alcohol consumption in parks and beaches?

We recommend them do not allow it. Evidence indicates that this is not a good idea for public health and well-being. But if they decide to go down this path, or if they have already allowed alcohol consumption in municipal public spaces and wish to strengthen their policies, we have several recommendations. The main thing is to keep these initiatives temporary and / or seasonal rather than permanent. Other recommendations include: maintaining alcohol consumption at restricted times and areas of the day within municipal property; ensure that governments engage with their citizens from all walks of life before, during and after allowing it; and obtain legal advice on their municipal liability. We also recommend that municipalities encourage people to purchase food and alcohol from nearby restaurants, pubs and food trucks, and increase budgets for additional costs incurred by governments, such as l enforcement of regulations or garbage collection.

This research was funded by the Government of British Columbia.

Suzanne Ahearne (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6139 or [email protected]

Amanda Farrell-Low (CISUR communications officer) at 250-472-5445 or [email protected]

Tim Naimi (CISUR / Publish Health and Social Policy) at 250-472-5445 or [email protected]

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