Alcohol consumption has continued to trend up in the Alberni Valley, according to Island Health medical health officer for the mid Island Paul Hasselback.
“We’re seeing a changing picture. For the first time, hospitalizations from alcohol now exceed that of tobacco,” Hasselback told the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District board of directors. That trend is evident both on Vancouver Island as a whole and in the Alberni Valley.
While alcohol consumption Canada wide peaked in 2007-08 and has decreased since then due to efforts by the Maritime provinces, alcohol consumption in B.C. didn’t follow that trend.
“B.C. had tended to have higher levels of consumption prior to that, it dropped off with the drinking and driving laws that came in place in about 2010 but the last two to three years we’ve seen a resurgence and general increase,” said Hasselback.
According to the B.C. alcohol and other drug (AOD) monitoring project, alcohol consumption in B.C. peaked at 9.25 litres of absolute alcohol per person (15+) annually in 2007-08.
In 2014-15, alcohol consumption had reached 8.97 litres of absolute alcohol per person (15+) annually.
Alcohol consumption in the Alberni Valley continues to exceed that of the rest of Vancouver Island, Hasselback said.
Cherry Creek director Lucas Banton queried Hasselback on whether or not the tourists headed to Tofino and buying cheaper alcohol in Port Alberni were contributing to that number.
“These numbers are based on where the alcohol is sold so yes, if it is the tourist industry coming through and buying it will be added in here and that may explain some of the excess,” said Hasselback. Alcohol consumption data driven by the location of purchase places the Alberni Valley in the third spot, behind Vancouver Island North and Lake Cowichan.
“But if we look at alcohol related mortality, which is based upon residents of the area irrespective of where they die... the Alberni area does have to start looking at alcohol consumption as a whole.”
The Alberni Valley has the highest rate of alcohol related deaths on Vancouver Island, with Nanaimo and Ladysmith in second and third place.