• Elizabeth

Alcohol: a public health crisis

A student’s perspective on the cost of alcohol abuse on society and public health


It’s Friday night and you’re sitting out on the patio with friends at a Toronto pub. The string of overhead lights swings gently in the warm evening breeze. You shift forward in your seat as the server sets down a frosty glass on the cardboard coaster resting on the table. Reaching forward, you grab the glass and bring it to your lips, savouring the cool taste of your drink.

If I asked what you ordered, you’d probably say some form of alcohol; and you’re not alone. Approximately 80–90 per cent of Canadians drink alcoholic beverages regularly. A new study from the New Zealand’s University of Otago may make some Canadians opt for a different drink next time.


The study published by Professor Jennie Connor concluded that any level of alcohol consumption has been tied to the development of seven different kinds of cancer. Despite the flurry of news articles scrambling to cover the story, this information is not new.

Although alcohol has been linked to cancer in the past, the study admits that miscommunication between scientists and the media, the quality of evidence, and sources of bias in past studies have misled the public with previous stories. One example of this is how red wine is commonly rumoured to prevent heart disease.

“At this point there is no study which basically would deny the role of alcohol on those cancers,” says Jurgen Rehm, Epidemiology Professor with U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “That’s one of the few things that the alcohol industry accepts these days.”


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