Alcohol strategy committee encouraging a rethink of drinking habits

Karen Anthony-Burns speaks at a conference to unveil a new signage initiative to prevent impaired driving on Sept. 1, 2020. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

The Prince Albert Community Alcohol Strategy Steering Committee (CASSC) is encouraging people to be more aware of their drinking habits.

The City of Prince Albert is recognizing Oct. 2 as World No Alcohol Day—The CASSC says the international recognition began after the World Health Organization (WHO) listed alcohol as a global leading cause of death.

According to WHO, alcohol consumption contributes to about 3 million deaths worldwide. Alcohol is the leading factor for premature death and disability among people between the ages of 15 and 49, accounting for 10 per cent of deaths in this age category.

Karen Anthony-Burns, coordinator of the local CASSC, encouraged people to join the Sober October Facebook group in conjunction with World No Alcohol Day.

Despite the name, Anthony-Burns said the CASSC’s goal is not eliminating alcohol use—instead, it’s promoting a healthier relationship with alcohol.

“They might take a break for a week … but that even can be a reset in their thinking. Some people, when they do it for a month, they find that maybe they want to continue or they change their drinking habits,” she explained.

“That’s why we even talked about it being a sober-er October because, you know what, what anybody does is personal to them and they can choose what feels right. For some, they might say ‘Hey, maybe I’m just not going to drink Monday through Friday,’ or for some people it might be something further than that.”

Anthony-Burns said the CASSC will be making daily posts in the group intended to inspire people as they cut down on alcohol. She hopes people will comment on how they’re doing, such as any challenges they’re experiencing or that they’re feeling better.

Having a group of people to lean on, even virtually, can help support responsible alcohol use.

She said there will also be draws for prizes among the Facebook group’s participants. The CASSC also created a similar group last October, as well as in January.

Prince Albert’s CASSC began in 2015 “to promote healthier communities.”

This includes promoting Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines, which ranges depending on age and sex.

To reduce long-term health risks, women should drink no more than 10 drinks a week and men no more than 15 drinks. You should also avoid drinking completely on some days each week.

From late teens to age 24, limit drinks to no more than two a day for females and three a day for males.

Anthony-Burns has been an advocate for responsible alcohol use, including in the Prince Albert chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), after her son was killed by an impaired driver. Friday marked 10 years since his funeral.

“These are our memories, and I don’t want to see anybody else have to go through that,” she said.

Anthony-Burns said she hopes to reach young people in particular with her message of drinking in moderation.

In a Tuesday news release, SGI announced it’s extending its partnership with the ministries of Justice and Attorney General and Corrections and Policing. An up to $250,000 investment will expand the Northern Alcohol Strategy in 2020-21.

Part of the money is funding Anthony-Burns’ new part-time position as coordinator of the Prince Albert CASSC.

She said the CASSC is hoping to launch a community survey for feedback on how the city’s relationship with alcohol has changed or any arising issues.