Group calls for strong government action on sugary, high-alcohol drinks

Quebec-based alcohol education and awareness group, Éduc’alcool, is calling on the Quebec and federal governments to stop passing-the-buck on sugary, high-alcohol drinks.

The group wants the governments to implement six simple changes - three each - that it says would help reduce injuries and deaths - like that of Athena Gervais - from consuming sugary, high-alcohol drinks.

Éduc’alcool Director, Hubert Sacy, wants Ottawa and Quebec City to coordinate actions on high-alcohol drinks like FCKED-UP and Four LoKo, starting by having them qualified as “dangerous” by Health Canada and ensuring enforcement is undertaken.

Sacy said any similar products that make it into stores or their refrigerators should be forced to have plain packaging and be limited to one standard serving of alcohol - that’s 13.5 grams - per can.

“I mean those products that hide the  taste and the effect of alcohol,” said Sacy.

Sacy said drinks like FCKED-UP and Four LoKo contained as many as four servings per can.

Besides Health Canada qualifying the drinks as “dangerous,” Ottawa could limit the alcohol content per can or bottle to one standard serving and ensure that packaging designs are less appealing to young people.  

Since the death of Gervais, Quebec cabinet ministers have been all too eager to refer any media questions about sugary, high-alcohol drinks to Health Canada, but Sacy said they shouldn’t be hiding from their responsibility.

Sacy said the provincial government has an important role to play because it has the power to set the minimum price for these drinks.

“For you and I maybe one dollar more or one dollar less won’t make a difference, but when it comes to young people and to vulnerable people the price makes a difference.”

The Quebec government can also limit sales of the drinks to the SAQ, instead of wider availability through dépanneurs and grocery stores, as well as passing legislation to regulate promotions that could help protect young people from over-indulging and intoxication.  

SInce the death of Gervais, Laval-based Geloso Group issued a statement saying it was “a mistake” for his company to enter the sugary and highly alcoholic beverage category (with FCKED UP) to compete with American Four Loko. Geloso Group also announced it would cease production of FCKED UP and called for a government-led roundtable about the products.

The Quebec Association of dépanneurs and food retailers agreed with Geloso Group's decision to stop producing FCKED UP, as well the call for a Roundtable.

Association President. Yves Servais, said it’s a discussion that is long overdue and that stronger provincial and federal regulations are needed, including rules related to marketing.