Expanding alcohol sales to convenience stores will increase risks/harms: Mercer

GUELPH – Dr. Nicola Mercer has expressed concern about the province’s recent move to allow the sale of beer and wine at convenience stores.

Mercer, medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH), said at the June 5 board of health meeting that increasing the number of places alcohol can be sold will increase both the risk and harms of alcohol.

She noted 8,500 new stores in the province will be able to sell alcohol as of Sept. 5, “and it is likely we will see an increase in alcohol harms.”

“This is a big change for society,” said Mercer.

DR. NICOLA MERCER (Advertiser file photo)

“There may be a benefit for the provincial government (in more alcohol sales and taxes).

“The harms will be borne by families, individuals, and municipalities,” since municipalities provide social services.

The board has seen recent reports from public health inspectors that indicate many youths are buying vaping products from convenience stores, even though stores are not allowed to sell to minors.

Vaping among minors is a concern with public health and local school boards, and WDGPH recently held a virtual session for parents about how to talk to youth about vaping, the risks and potential harms.

Based on that reality, “I am of the opinion there will be more sales of alcohol to minors,” Mercer told the board.

While monitoring the sale of vaping products and cigarettes to minors is in the public health purview, the sale of alcohol is the responsibility of the Alcohol and Gaming Commission and not public health.

Mercer said WDGPH will keep an eye on the stats, but “it is not a system we are set up to monitor.”