Why Deal With Alcohol?

Injury Free Nova Scotia is a small organization with the challenge of taking on a very broad public health issue, - preventable injuries.  When you look at the top three causes of injury and injury-related death in Nova Scotia, - motor vehicle collisions, falls and suicides/suicide attempts, there is a common theme connecting many of them,  - alcohol.  Alcohol is a contributing factor in a large number of these as well as with injuries and deaths due to violence, drowning etc.  For very strategic reasons, it makes sense for us to focus significant energies on the issue of alcohol.

But how?

Our organization focuses on how alcohol is experienced in our communities, in our province, - the role that it plays, and the impact that it is having on all of us collectively.  You do not have to drink alcohol to experience its negative effects on our communities.  We know that talking about the “culture of alcohol” means understanding that there is an entire network of beliefs, values, language, history that Nova Scotians, as a people,  have adopted in our understanding of alcohol, and that impacts why we drink, when we start to drink, how we drink, how much we drink, and what we do when we drink.

  • Our age of first drink is lower than ever, at 12.7 years of age.
  • Our binge drinking levels are increasing
  • Our impaired driving injuries and deaths  remain high despite increased awareness among community members of the risk
  • Alcohol advertising is increasing, assisted by the introduction of social media
  • Suicides and suicide attempts remain high, and alcohol remains a common component of suicide attempts
  • We have more outlets to purchase alcohol than ever historically and extensive bar hours.

Why talk “we” when not all of us drink or have problems with drinking?

Injury Free Nova Scotia is focused on pursuing change that will positively impact our communities and our province as a whole.  While we applaud the provision of necessary services to treat the individuals negatively affected by alcohol, and partner with individuals and organizations that do that work, our focus is the change required to make our communities healthier and safer for everyone.  And again, the negative effects of risky alcohol consumption are experienced by all of us.

To make needed change we believe we are in this together.

What works?

Fortunately there is an abundance of evidence that highlights what works best to manage the risks inherent in alcohol, for the community as a whole.   After all, we are not talking about prohibition, we are focused on managing the risks of alcohol within a community and province-wide context.  We often say that “it is not THAT we drink but HOW we drink” as a community that is the issue.

There is a comprehensive library of documents on the issue of alcohol that you can access through the Atlantic Collaborative on Injury Prevention website (www.acip.ca).  Injury Free Nova Scotia is proud to be a member of the leadership team of this organization.


Much of what we focus on is related to the following three elements of alcohol because significant research has shown that they have the largest impact on the level of risk experienced by community (impaired driving/suicides and attempts/sexual assaults and other violence/alcohol poisonings...)and by addressing them we can see the largest benefits :

  • Access to alcohol : the number of outlets to buy it, number of drinking establishments and length of hours of operation.  The easier it is to access, the more the populations drinks and the more related risks are experienced
  • Advertising of alcohol : the more advertisements of alcohol are woven into all contexts of community living, - sports, recreation, work, school etc.,  and the more it is shown to younger and younger people, the more alcohol becomes adopted in a position of importance in society
  • Pricing of alcohol: pricing strategies can determine whether people are encouraged to buy the high percentage alcohol , linked to increased alcohol harms, or the lower percentage alcohol, linked to comparatively lower alcohol harms.
These are known as “Tier one” approaches, because they have been shown to have the broadest benefit to communities as a whole.