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Letter to the editor: Vancouver Coastal Health supports harm reduction

29/01/2016
Vancouver Coastal Health submitted the following letter to the editor to the National Post, in response to an article published January 19, Brian Hutchinson: Group sex, illegal pot get OK in Vancouver, but wine in grocery stores? No way
Vancouver City Council was right to reject the proposal to pilot selling wine in grocery stores. The city’s liquor policies are currently under review; it only makes sense to have a comprehensive alcohol strategy before fast tracking any new initiatives – particularly ones that fail to consider that we are dealing with an addictive substance that, while enjoyed by most adults, is also one of the most common causes of death and preventable illness in B.C.
Alcohol policies require thoughtful, unrushed consideration, with scientific data, and strategic, long-term planning providing their basis. In 2011, there were over 200 deaths in our region directly linked to alcohol, more than 4,000 hospitalizations and tens of thousands of visits to our emergency departments. Emergency-department visits due to alcohol intoxication and/or overdoses increased more than 75 per cent between 2008 and 2012. And we are seeing a distressing growth in binge drinking, particularly among young people.
We know that increases in harm from alcohol are linked to higher liquor outlet density. As consumption increases, so do the risks of injury, crime, violence, alcohol-related deaths, and other serious illness, like cancer and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Vancouver Coastal Health supports harm reduction, whether through sexual health clinics, needle-exchange programs or take home naloxone kits for preventing overdoses.  
We commend council’s decision to halt any additional accessibility or visibility of alcohol – for the time being.
We are also supportive of the City of Vancouver’s requirement for business licenses for marijuana retail outlets because it will reduce harm associated with marijuana use. Regulating retailers will help prevent youth under age 19 from entering these stores; banning sale of marijuana edibles will curb  childhood poisonings and acute intoxications, and preventing shops close to schools and community centres will reduce exposure to children and teens.
Dr. Patricia Daly
Vice-President, Public Health and Chief Medical Health Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health

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