Canada launches drastic new 'alcohol guidance' rules

Canada recently updated its alcohol consumption guidelines for 2023.

The recommendations are that zero alcohol is the only risk-free approach.

A maximum of two drinks each week was deemed low-risk.

The previous edition of the guidelines recommended a maximum of ten drinks a week for women and fifteen drinks for men. 

The guidelines also recommend mandatory warning labels for all alcoholic beverages.

This is part of a nearly 90-page report, from the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), that details the health risks associated with what was previously considered low alcohol consumption.

How does Canada compare with other countries?

The U.S. recommends no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women, while the U.K. suggests no more than 14 "units" of alcohol — around six glasses of wine or pints of beer — per week.

The Netherlands' health council recommended that people abstain from alcohol altogether, or drink no more than one standard drink each day.

In Canada, CCSA scientists and other experts say that mandatory labeling of all alcoholic beverages with health warnings, now common practice for cigarettes, is a necessary first step.

In India, for instance, all tobacco-based products and alcoholic beverages contain warnings, calling them health hazards.  It doesn't stop there; before every movie, there is a public health infomercial about the hazards of smoking.  Even during movies for scenes where characters consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes, a message flashes at the base of the screen.

On the surface, all of this seems innocuous.

We all know that excessive consumption of alcohol is harmful.  A government recommendation and a warning will only remind people.

The question, as always, is about consistency.

The situation is similar to why people objected to Twitter fact-checking or added disclaimers or context to certain tweets.  The problem isn't with the act, but with the consistency.  There are two choices only.  Either apply them uniformly, or don't apply them at all.

Let's go down that road of warnings on "hazardous" foods.

We know that excessive consumption of deep-fried food such as French fries could be harmful to health.  They contain highly saturated fats, which cause plaque to deposit within the arteries that can put the consumer at risk for coronary artery disease, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.

We know that excessive consumption of sugary desserts and beverages is also hazardous to health.  It could lead to weight gain, blood sugar problems, and an increased risk of heart disease.

What about meat?

Too much red meat consumption can lead to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

How about a government warning and recommendations for suitable consumption of every deep-fried food item, sugary desserts, and meat?

How about placing a warning on the source of the problem packets of sugar and cooking oil containers?

Let's look at healthier food, too.

How about milk?

Excessive consumption of cow's milk, for instance, can lead to iron deficiency anemia, decreased consumption of solids, and increased consumption of an iron-deficient milk diet.  It can also cause digestive issues such as bloating, cramps, and diarrhea.

What about fruits?

Well, fruits are not supposed to be a good sources of iron or zinc, which are crucial components of a healthy diet.  Excessive fruit intake can also cause heartburn, diarrhea, reflux, and bloating.  Most fruits contain sugar, and there are also risks associated with sugar.

What about vegetables?

Vegetables are an excellent source of nutrients, but they are deficient in fat and protein.  Protein and fat deficiency can lead to dryness of skin, thinning of hair, swelling, weakness, fatigue, muscle soreness, depression or anxiety, and slow recovery from injury or illness. 

How about water?

Every human needs about a gallon of water every day.  However, excessive consumption of water could lead to overburdening of kidneys that can't excrete the excess water.  The sodium content of the blood becomes diluted.  This is called hyponatremia, and it can be life-threatening.

How about a government warning and recommendations for suitable consumption of milk, fruits, vegetables, and even bottles of water and taps?

"Oh, be quiet.  Are you seriously comparing tobacco products and alcohol with vegetables, fruits, and even water?  You are going too far!" is what the outraged big government advocate will say.

To live a healthy life, every human needs a varied diet, a bit of all, with an emphasis on proper intake of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, etc., plus exercise.

Most adults are aware of these principles.

The government has no role in this.  There is no need for warnings or guidelines on specific items in the marketplace.

Every commodity from cigarettes to milk lands in shops as the outcome of a business.  Placing warnings on certain products only is discriminatory against that business.

This is government overreach.  Once they enter the private space making recommendations, they could begin with coercion by placing restrictions. 

If that seems outlandish, remember that they did mandate the vaccine.

How would these restrictions be enforced?

In order to enforce restrictions, there will have to be a tracking mechanism.  For instance, it would require a government database that tracks alcohol consumption.  Each time a bottle of wine is bought, it is registered in the government database, which prevents the same consumer from buying more than the permitted amount.

In addition to being discriminatory against the business, it also could be ineffective.  People will find ways to work around the rules.  Perhaps they will ask teetotaler friends to buy adult beverages for them.  Perhaps they will spirit the spirits in from abroad.  Or they may reintroduce speakeasies and moonshine stills.  Excessive rules can boost the black market, as happened during Prohibition (1920–1933) in the U.S.

In a free society, individuals must be allowed to consume as they please, within reason — obviously, that excludes cannibals.

If an individual chooses to ignore the risks, he should be allowed to drink as he pleases.  Obviously, this freedom doesn't apply to drinking and driving because that places the lives of others in peril.

The same rule applies to food.  If an individual desires a steak with French fries on the side for every meal, with cheesecake, well, he must be allowed it.  As an adult, he has the right to engage in behavior that is hazardous to health.

What about alcoholics?

Addiction is an ailment.  Alcoholics must choose to enter rehab to cure themselves.

If the government enters the arena of mitigating risks, nothing will be allowed because every human activity has its risks. 

People have lost their lives even slipping over a banana peel.  Hence, staying home will be recommended.  To ensure that, there will be lockdowns and restrictions. 

If that sounds preposterous, we just have to recall the occurrences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a democracy, responsible adults should be allowed to do what they please as long as it doesn't hurt others.  Personal well-being, which includes being healthy, is strictly a matter for the individual.  Most responsible adults are aware of the risks of excessive consumption of any kind of food or drinks.  Some are affected more than others, and that forms a basis for reasonable individual judgments.

We simply cannot deny responsible adults of their rights just because a few irresponsible or ailing individuals will abuse them.

Governments have no business interfering in business, be it personal or commercial.  Canada is crossing a line with these measures.

Image: PxHere, CC0 public domain.

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