WGC supports drinking in moderation and responsible wine consumption and plays an active role in preventing excessive consumption and misuse of alcoholic beverages in Canada.
The COVID-19 Context
COVID-19 has forced us – at least for now – to adapt to a new way of doing things, in both our work and our home lives. The Canadian wine industry is taking proactive steps to be key partners in the fight against COVID-19 and its consequences. Many of our wineries have stepped up in helping address the nationwide shortage of hand sanitizer that was of particular concern during the early months of the pandemic. Through their distribution networks, Canadian wineries have been delivering hand sanitizer to those who need it, including some to frontline workers free of charge.
This is also a critical time for Canadians who drink to continue to do so in a moderate fashion. Traumatic events, such as COVID-19, can make us feel overwhelmed or worried about what the future may hold. People often have different ways to deal with, or process, such emotions. It’s important that the excessive consumption of alcohol – drinking more than 2 drinks (for women) or 3 drinks (for men) a day – is not one of them. During this challenging time, public health officials have recommended a range of activities, from exercise to connecting online with friends and family, to help, or speaking to a health professional if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed or distressed.
And what’s more, wine is a drink that is simply so well-suited to moderation. Here are some tips to help you enjoy the best of Canadian wine in a responsible way:
- Pair wine with good food – wine can really complement and enhance the flavours of your meal
- Savour each sip – drink slowly, to really appreciate the wine’s distinctive taste
- Don’t be intimidated – take in all aspects of the wine, including its colour, nose, aroma and taste
Counting your drinks or alternating with a glass of water can also help in ensuring you don’t drink too much. And remember – Canada’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines recommend no more than 2 drinks a day or 10 drinks a week for women, and no more than 3 drinks per day or 15 drinks per week for men, balanced with non-drinking days each week.
National Alcohol Strategy
The consumption of alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects depending on the amount consumed, personal characteristics including gender, age, body mass, and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol. Moderate wine consumption by adults, as part of a balanced diet, is compatible with a low-risk, healthy lifestyle.
WGC plays an active role in preventing excessive consumption and misuse of alcoholic beverages in Canada. In 2005, WGC joined an expert working group co-chaired by Health Canada, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, and the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission to develop the National Alcohol Strategy.
The resulting report, Reducing Alcohol-Related Harm in Canada: Towards a Culture of Moderation – Recommendations for a National Alcohol Strategy (2007), sets out 41 recommendations to support the development of a culture of moderate alcohol use and to reduce alcohol-related harm.
In 2008, WGC became a member of the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Committee (NASAC) which was organized to implement, monitor and evaluate the National Alcohol Strategy recommendations. These recommendations focus on four strategic areas for action:
Health impacts and treatment
Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
Canada’s National Alcohol Strategy prioritized the development of national alcohol drinking guidelines to encourage a culture of moderation, while promoting consistency and clarity. WGC represents the beverage alcohol industry on the National Alcohol Strategy Advisory Knowledge Exchange Committee, which was tasked to develop and complete Canada’s Low Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines
For the first time, Canada now has a national set of low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines, endorsed by federal, provincial and territorial health ministers, as well as the Canadian Vintners Association.
These guidelines, have been developed for Canadians of legal drinking age who choose to drink alcohol, and are intended to provide consistent information across the country to help Canadians moderate their alcohol consumption and reduce alcohol-related harm.
Drinking is a personal choice. If you choose to drink, these guidelines can help you decide when, where, why and how.
WGC Code for Responsible Advertising and Marketing Practices
In fall 2020, Wine Growers Canada launched its Code for Responsible Advertising and Marketing Practices (WGC Code), a code developed to provide guidance to WGC members and their employees on responsible marketing best practices. It is an essential framework for responsible communication activities to advertise and market the products of WGC members to those of legal purchase age.
WGC members have made a commitment to undertake consumer communications activities in line with this code, including through undertaking measures to ensure their marketing is never directed at those under the legal purchase age and does not portray the consumption of wine in an irresponsible manner. Wineries will uphold their commitments to never direct marketing towards minors through a range of measures, from reviewing audience analytics for media communications, limiting the manufacture of branded goods to adult-only sizes, restricting billboard advertising to ensure it is not in proximity to elementary or secondary schools, and using age mechanisms on social media.
As consumer information channels change to incorporate more digital channels, it has become more important than ever to create this code, by ensuring member wineries continue to market their products in a responsible manner and with the highest ethical standards. WGC thanks all those who participated on our expert working group to develop this code.
The WGC message with regards to drinking and driving has, and always will be, “Do not Drink and Drive”. The WGC and our member wineries undertake considerable measures to support moderate and responsible wine consumption. As the national wine industry association, we have taken the lead in creating a drinking in moderation website to educate Canadian wineries and consumers about the importance of consuming wine in moderation. Education is the best means to equip consumers with the knowledge required to make responsible decisions about when, why and how much they drink. WGC member wineries are encouraged to share this website with their customers, in their materials, social media and web presence.
The law in Canada on alcohol-impaired drinking is two-fold. On the one hand, the federal Criminal Code deals with those who have a blood alcohol level of over .08. In addition, each province implements sanctions on those found driving with a blood alcohol level of over the provincial limit – which ranges from .04 in Saskatchewan to .08 in Alberta and Quebec. Measures most effective in deterring repeat offenders are those that are swift, certain and severe, such as provincial sanctions, whereby enhanced short-term administrative sanctions, combined with vehicle impoundment and monetary penalties, are viable, effective means of reducing the magnitude of alcohol-impaired driving in Canada. This combination of federal and provincial measures supports a declining number of individuals driving under the influence of alcohol, and does not place too much pressure on an already overstretched federal court system, with provinces handing out administrative sanctions.
The Government of Canada is reviewing changing the federal blood alcohol limit downward in the Criminal Code, from .08 to .05. It is unclear this would help reduce the rate of alcohol-impaired driving in the demographics most likely to drink and drive. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), the majority of impaired drivers in Canada who cause fatalities are drinking drivers who are over twice the legal limit. Although both the rate of alcohol-impaired driving in Canada and the casualties related to alcohol-impaired driving in Canada have dropped dramatically and are now at a 30-year low, measures must continue to tackle this specific group who are over twice the legal limit, something lowering the criminal code limit to .05 is unlikely to solve.
Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral Tools
A priority National Alcohol Strategy recommendation to address health impacts and treatment was the development of integrated and culturally sensitive screening, brief intervention and referral tools and strategies. In response to this priority, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the College of Family Physicians of Canada with unrestricted funds provided by the Wine Growers of Canada, the Beer Canada and Spirits Canada supported the development of a web-based alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral Tools (SBIR) as a clinical guide for Canadian family physicians and other health professionals.
The new SBIR web resource offers a three-step alcohol assessment and referral process to help family physicians and other health professionals detect and address harmful alcohol consumption among their patients.
The SBIR resource is a practical, web-based guide, the first of its kind to incorporate Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
The SBIR website provides access to evidence-based information on how to screen for unhealthy drinking patterns, and if risk is identified, which intervention options and discussion tools are best for doctors to help their patients better manage their alcohol use.