The Danger of Grocery-Store Alcohol

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It’s Thursday evening and you’re sporting your comfiest sweatpants and a face mask sewn by your  grandmother as you stroll through the aisles of your local grocery store. Before joining the check-out line, you notice the fully stocked alcohol aisle and think to yourself “I might as well save myself the extra errand of going to the LCBO.” You proceed to grab two bottles of your favorite wine and a case of beer, toss them in your cart, and head for the check-out.  

Sound familiar?  

The 2015 policy change in Ontario, that allowed for alcohol to be sold in grocery stores, has surely saved  many people from frequent trips to the liquor store, in addition to their already tedious grocery store runs. But as a result, alcohol consumption has increased. Can too much of a good thing be a bad thing? For teens, studies are saying yes. 

A research study, done by UW’s Department of Applied Health Sciences, discovered that the accessibility of  grocery store alcohol has  led some teens to go from abstaining to binge-drinking ,multiple times per week.  

The leader of the study, Mahmood Gohari, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Public Health and  Health Systems at UW, concluded that youth who originally did not drink were 75 per cent more likely to start consuming alcohol as a result of the accessible alcohol section in the grocery store. “Luckily, we are not talking about a huge number of students – only 1 per cent. But this transition is still alarming,” Gohari said. 

The study took data from a survey of over 2,200 Grade 9 students over a four year longitudinal study of more than 65,000 youth. They compared data from the two years prior to the policy change, and the two years after. The results were concerning. Compared to teens who did not have access to grocery-store alcohol and Albertans who’ve had access for years, the teens who had access to grocery store alcohol showed high-risk behaviors longer. 

Fortunately, the study shows that for 57 per cent of those who drank periodically throughout the month, the policy change had no effect on their behaviour.  

So next time you find yourself pursuing the alcohol aisle, tempted to try a new brand of wine, stop and ask yourself “have I started drinking more since the policy change? 

Additional details on the study (from Waterloo Stories):  

The study, ‘The impact of an alcohol policy change on developmental trajectories of youth alcohol use:  examination of a natural experiment in Canada’, was published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.  It was co-authored by Gohari, Martin Cook, Joel Dubin and Scott Leatherdale, all at Waterloo.

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