Dr. Lindsay Bowthorpe, medical health officer and medical director with Fraser Health Authority, says scientific evidence on alcohol harms has been growing, noting that “even ‘moderate’ amounts of alcohol can have serious consequences,” according to new federal guidelines.
“While social connection and community belonging are vital for health and wellbeing, it is important to recognize that alcohol may not support the social connection goals of everyone in the community,” Bowthorpe said in a letter to council outlining her concerns.
“Alcohol in parks may create riskier environments for individuals in recovery from an alcohol use disorder and act as a barrier for families and groups who are uncomfortable being around those who drink alcohol.”
Penticton council voted earlier this year to allow drinking on some beaches in the city, after a pilot program ran over the last several summers, while Summerland recently approved a similar pilot program this year as well. Kelowna council will vote on running a pilot program Monday.
Bowthorpe listed a variety of problems resulting from alcohol and noted it link to “at least seven kinds of cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and injuries.”
With alcohol consumption rising over the past decade province-wide, she said data shows a “worrisome” trend that alcohol is responsible for more hospitalizations, emergency room visits and paramedic services than any other substance.
Alcohol related issues cost the B.C. public $2.8 billion annually, she said.
Bowthorpe noted parks near large bodies of water should be excluded from the program due to risk of drowning, as well as parks where children and youth gather.
She said if council does approve the bylaw, Fraser Health’s population and public health department can guide a monitoring plan.
City council will decide on the alcohol in parks pilot program at its meeting on June 5.