Many Canadians drink alcohol at levels that increase their risk of harm. Alcohol pricing is a proven, effective way of controlling the availability and consumption of alcohol and supporting a culture of moderation. As a general rule, higher prices translate into lower consumption and reduced alcohol-related harm, while lower prices lead to increases in consumption and related harm.
Social Reference Prices for Alcohol: A Tool for Canadian Governments to Promote a Culture of Moderation
Social reference prices (SRPs) refer to the minimum price at which an alcoholic beverage can be sold. The way that provincial and territorial governments in Canada set SRPs for alcoholic beverages varies greatly, which in some regions means that:
SRPs are not always based on alcohol content, which creates price incentives for choosing higher strength drinks;
SRPs do not always keep pace with inflation;
Pricing loopholes undermine the value of SRPs; and
SRPs are not set for all beverage types.
Key Recommendations in the Report
Based on existing Canadian examples of best practice, the report recommends that provincial and territorial governments:
Apply SRPs to all types of alcoholic beverages;
Ensure SRPs reflect the alcohol content of drinks within each major beverage class;
Regularly review, maintain and update the value of SRPs relative to provincial consumer price indices to ensure SRPs keep pace with inflation; and
Close existing loopholes that allow the sale of alcohol below SRPs.
Alcohol Price Policy in Canada Report Series
This earlier series on alcohol pricing presents data on levels and patterns of alcohol use in Canada:
Examines the economic and governmental context of beverage alcohol sales;
Looks at pricing policies in six provinces; and
Provides guiding principles for using alcohol price policies to reduce alcohol-related harm in Canada.
Key recommendations include indexing alcohol prices to inflation; basing alcohol prices on alcohol content; providing economic incentives for individuals to drink products with lower amounts of alcohol; and increasing minimum prices to deter risky drinkers from buying inexpensive alcohol.
All recommendations align with the findings from the National Alcohol Strategy
Reducing Alcohol Related Harm in Canada – Recommendations for a National Alcohol Strategy 2007.