Public health officials raise alarm as SAQ gives out $128m in free alcohol

Since the implementation of the "Inspire" reward program, the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) has given members the equivalent of $128 million of alcohol free of charge. In 2018 alone, Quebecers drank $41 million of wines and spirits on the crown corporation's tab. That's a worrying figure, says an expert on public health issues.

The Canadian Press's French-langauge service has obtained data on the number of subscribers and on the value of the points distributed by the SAQ since 2015 thanks to the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information.

According to figures provided by the crown corporation, as of December 31, 2018, there were 2,384,423 Inspire cardholders. This represents more than one in three adults in Quebec. These consumers have accumulated more than 128 billion points since the implementation of the program in 2015.

Every 1000 Inspire points represents a dollar to spend on SAQ products. The 128 billion points are worth $128 million.

Of this amount, subscribers have consumed more than $101 million in alcohol products since 2015. Therefore, there remained more than 27 million "SAQ dollars" in the portfolio of Quebecers as of December 31st.

These figures are worrying Dr. Réal Morin of the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec who recalls that alcohol consumption is associated with more than 200 social and health problems.

"It's clear that, based on the scientific data obtained around the world and on which we rely on the INSPQ, this is not a practice that is compatible with public health interests," he says. -he.

According to him, the Inspire program is "not consistent with efforts to reduce the problems associated with alcohol consumption". He adds that for public health organizations, "by letting such a practice be done, it is to consider that alcohol is an ordinary product, which it is not, but clearly not".

Dr. Morin added that the World Health Organization considers that alcohol-related advertising must be reduced or even abolished in its member countries.