Alcohol-Related Policy Measures in Ontario: Who Supports What and to What Degree?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Using 1998 provincial survey data (n = 1,205), the authors examine responses to 7 items concerning public opinion on alcoholrelated policy in Ontario. The purpose of the study is to get a sense of overall public opinion on certain topical policy-related measures and to see whether this opinion is predicted by demographic characteristics of respondents (sex, age and self-reported drinking pattern). Cross-tabulations of opinion items with demographic variables revealed strong majority support for the status quo with regard to number of liquor and beer stores, beer and liquor store hours, and prohibition of the sale of alcohol in corner stores. A somewhat less robust majority also supported the status quo for alcohol taxes and legal drinking age. Among the demographic groups, high-risk heavy drinkers stood out for their greater support of relaxation of controls and this finding was confirmed by means of logistic regression. The majority of all groups, except frequent bar-goers, liked the idea of warning labels on alcoholic beverage containers. The authors conclude that, according to these survey data, policy initiatives towards greater access to alcohol, such as extended liquor store hours and sale of alcohol in corner stores, are not mandated by the majority of the population of Ontario.

ABREGE

En utilisant des donnees d'un Bondage de 1998 (n = 1205), les auteurs etudient en particulier les reponses a 7 questions ayant rapport a (opinion publique sur la reglementation de I'alcool en Ontario. Le but de l'etude est d'evaluer (opinion publique i l'egard des reglementations sur l'alcool en general, et de voir si on peut predire cette opinion d'apt-rs les caracteristiques demographiques des repondants (le sexe, (age, le niveau de consommation). Les resultats montrent que la majorite prefere le state quo quand il s'agit du nombre de brasseries et de marchands de wins et de spiritueux, des heures de vente, et de la vente de I'alcool aux epiceries. Une majorite moins forte prefere aussi le state quo pour les taxes sur I'alcool et (age legal pour boire de I'alcool. Ce sent surtout les Brands buveurs qui voudraient moins de restrictions de la disponibilite de ce produit. La plupart des repondants sont pour les etiquettes avetisseuses sur les conteneurs d'alcool, sauf les personnes qui frequentent le plus les bars. Les auteurs tirent la conclusion que, d'apres ces resultats, la population de (Ontario, en general, ne soutient pas les initiatives pour augmenter la disponibilite de I'alcool dans cette province.

The well-documented problems associated with certain levels and patterns of alcohol consumption - such as drunk driving crashes, violence and liver dysfunction, to name a few - have given rise to organized efforts to control such problems. Some of these efforts are geared towards the formulation of alcohol-related policies (e.g., laws, rules, regulations), ideally designed to allow reasonable freedom to persons who drink alcohol in a harmless manner while restricting the consumption of those at risk of harming themselves and others. The desired balance of freedom and restriction is subject to debate, and part of the debate takes place in the forum of public opinion.1

One tool for the assessment of public opinion is the survey. Within the field of social research, in response to demand from a wide variety of stakeholders, survey methods have become more and more sophisticated with each passing decade. The results of survey-based research are sometimes used for the express purpose of guiding policy development, and this purpose has been openly acknowledged in a number of publications concerning alcoholrelated policy both nationally` and internationally.5-8 Alcohol policy is particularly sensitive and complex because of its direct bearing on public health. One might say that a bad policy can literally kill people whereas a good policy can save lives. This paper is intended as a contribution to the ever-growing body of literature serving to inform healthy, constructive, and realistic alcohol-related policy, whether in Ontario or elsewhere. …