The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has released a new report calling on Ontario to increase the drinking age to 21, among other recommendations.

The report outlines strategies to reduce the harms associated with alcohol, which can cost $2.9 billion each year in Ontario.

Dr. Norman Giesbrecht, CAMH senior scientist, said in a statement “While there are policy measures in place, there is still work to be done in various areas, such as alcohol pricing and advertising in order to address drinking behaviours that can be harmful.”

He goes on to say that about 22 per cent of Ontarians drink above the recommended guidelines, and that alcohol use should be addressed as a public health matter.

The report goes on to make 10 recommendations including:

  • Adjusting alcohol prices to keep pace with inflation.
  • Maintain government run monopolies which regulate access to alcohol.
  • Consider increasing the minimum legal drinking age to 21 years of age.
  • Limiting the availability of alcohol by reducing the hours of operation.
  • Strengthening drinking and driving regulations.
  • Prohibiting the advertisement of price or sales incentives by all alcohol retailers and tightening restrictions on sponsorship.
  • Support a consistent physician screening, referral and brief intervention protocol by implementing a fee for service code that is specific to these activities.
  • The Smart Serve Responsible Beverage Service program is encouraged to incorporate scenario-based activities into its training program and to require periodic retraining.
  • Implement mandatory alcohol warning labels on alcohol packaging that include topics relevant to alcohol use.
  • Develop a provincial alcohol strategy that emphasizes alcohol specific policies and interventions.

London residents are divided over the suggestions, with some saying increasing the drinking age still wouldn’t deter young people while other believe the change could help the situation.

There is also a concern among local business owners who worry about the impact the change could have on their bottom line.

Ron Scarfone, general manager at Joe Kool’s, says “It wouldn’t just affect the bar businesses, it would affect in general the cabbies out front because there’d be less people on the streets obviously…being a university town we thrive on those students coming to the city.”

He adds that it’s everyone’s job to ensure that drinking doesn’t get out of control.

“We just want people to be responsible, and that’s not just the younger or the youth, but it’s the adults too. Be responsible when you’re having drinks.”