When thinking about the prevalence of alcohol in our communities it occurred to me that the messages we receive about alcohol extend far beyond the glossy, bright advertisements and the modern (often oversized) local LCBO’s. Alcohol consumption has really been engrained, normalized, and even celebrated in Canadian culture.
What does this mean? Alcohol consumption is viewed as a normal part of any celebration. New Year’s Eve could not conceivably take place without champagne. St. Patrick’s Day is as synonymous with beer as it is with Ireland or the colour green. And the upcoming Canada Day weekend is known to be celebrated with drinking and fireworks.
But this normalization extends even further than the use of alcohol in celebrations – drinking is an integral part of some cultures. The English and aforementioned Irish are known for their beer and pubs. Italy and France are renowned for, and very proud of, their wine. The Caribbean is known for rum, Germans are famous for their beer and Russians seem to enjoy their vodka. Herein lies the challenge.
How can we recommend people reduce their drinking when alcohol consumption has a deep rooted history in many cultures? How can we convince people about the negative health effects of alcohol when drinking is linked with positive connotations like fun and celebrations?
As the saying goes, history is written by winners, and to date the winners have been the alcohol industry and its supporters. We need to begin writing a new narrative about the realities of heavy alcohol use, exposing the dangers of drinking on the health of both individuals and society as a whole. And the time to start is now.
Laura Colaricci BScN student