MONTREAL, June 6, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - Quebecers still have a healthy
approach to alcohol. While, over the past 10 years, drinking habits
have become more regular, problems related to overconsumption seem to
be slightly decreasing, following the trend toward declining
consumption. However, a certain tolerance toward occasional heavy
drinking, combined with an unjustified fear of the effects of regular
drinking on health and the development of alcohol dependency, are now
appearing. A big change of perception is necessary.
A minority of Quebecers are still drinking abusively — even dangerously
— the degree of knowledge is decreasing in some areas and 6% of drivers
admit to having driven while over the legal blood-alcohol limit. This
is no doubt due to the fact that they are at very little risk of being
stopped at a police sobriety checkpoint: fully-two thirds of motorists
surveyed said they had not encountered a single such checkpoint in the
Quebecers are also eager for knowledge and their top-priority topics
are: how to talk with their children about drinking, the latest
scientific data on the beneficial or harmful effects of drinking, how
much alcohol is safe to drink, and the relationship between alcohol and
health. Éduc'alcool, which still enjoys impressive credibility, is
committed to meeting these needs in the coming five years.
Such were the main findings of a major five-year study conducted by CROP
on behalf of Éduc'alcool and released today by Éduc'alcool Director
General Hubert Sacy.
A portrait of stability
"Attitudes and opinions are so entrenched that many of the 2012 results
are very similar to those obtained in 2002 and 2007, or within the
margin of error, particularly with regard to the social acceptability
of alcohol, the circumstances in which people drink, and even people's
general opinions about drinking. Beliefs change slowly," Hubert Sacy
Moderation is always in good taste
"The most reassuring information revealed by the survey is that,
overall, Quebecers have learned how to make alcohol a part of their
daily lives," Éduc'alcool's Director General added. "They have smoothly
incorporated a certain model of drinking into their lifestyle and they
are increasingly aware of various aspects of their drinking. In
addition, they are very interested in learning more about drinking,
specifically about low-risk drinking guidelines. Furthermore, we are
pleased to note that our position on drunk driving has been strongly
Incorporating the value of moderation
Éduc'alcool is obviously delighted to see that its slogan, La modération
a bien meilleur goût/Moderation is always in good taste, is still very
much top-of-mind, with a spectacular 85% awareness level among
non-francophones. But the really good news in this survey is how
moderation is becoming part of everyday life.
In fact, on average, Quebecers have just over three standard drinks a
week, and they tend to have two and a half drinks per drinking
occasion. It cannot be a coincidence that this amount corresponds to
the approximate number of drinks after which it becomes illegal to
drive. The connection is clear.
Moreover, the vast majority of Quebecers drink in places and under
circumstances that promote moderation. They tend to drink at home, with
friends and in restaurants, to celebrate happy events or when enjoying
a good meal. Drinking is associated with relaxation and it is more
about socializing than dependency.
"The latest alcohol sales statistics in Quebec show a decline in the
average purchase of 0.1 litre of pure alcohol per person per year, but
a drop of half a litre of pure alcohol per drinker," Hubert Sacy
stated. "This is consistent with the fact that Quebecers no longer seem
to have the same drinking-related problems observed five or six years
ago. Most indicators are even trending downward in this regard,
although they are within the margin of error."
Real problems still require real attention
"We can't let the good news obscure the fact that vigilance is still
required," Hubert Sacy continued. "In fact, it is more necessary than
ever. There is no ignoring the results showing that 10% of regular
drinkers felt that their drinking had a harmful effect on their health
in the last year. Nor can we ignore the 6-7% of drinkers who admit to
drinking heavily on a weekly basis."
Now that low-risk drinking guidelines have been established and widely
publicized, we must pay attention to the fact that 27% of women who
drink and 37% of men have exceeded the recommended weekly limits (three
drinks for women and four for men) at least once a month in the last
year. "It is more important than ever to get the message across that
moderation is a rule to which there can be no exceptions. Getting drunk
even once is once too often," stated Hubert Sacy.
On the other hand, almost all Quebecers know the Éduc'alcool
recommendations for pregnant women: abstain from drinking from the
moment you begin trying to conceive and continue abstaining throughout
the pregnancy. However — and this is surely because of the lack of
irrefutable scientific data on the subject — a majority of Quebecers
believe that occasional drinking will not harm the foetus, or that the
risk factor is very low. Not surprisingly, therefore, nearly three out
of ten Quebecers think it is acceptable for a woman to drink
occasionally during pregnancy.
De-dramatizing regular drinking, reducing tolerance for occasional
The results of the 2012 survey, which included new questions about
low-risk drinking guidelines, reveal that Quebecers have a sometimes
contradictory relationship with alcohol, and that they hold a number of
biases, most likely based on inherited beliefs. Hence, there is a
certain degree of tolerance for heavy drinking when it is occasional,
even for pregnant women, and some people willingly admit that they
exceed the recommended limits now and then, often at least once a
On the other hand, people are very suspicious of regular drinking, even
if it falls within the low-risk drinking guidelines. Seven out of ten
Quebecers would consider a woman who has two drinks a day, five days a
week, or a man who has three drinks a day, five or six days a week, to
be an alcoholic. Even if someone has one drink a day, five or six days
a week, almost half of all Quebecers would still call that alcoholism.
"This means Éduc'alcool faces a considerable challenge in educating
Quebecers about the relationship between drinking quantity and
frequency," Hubert Sacy noted. "We have to de-dramatize regular
drinking—provided it is within the low-risk guidelines—and warn people
about heavy drinking, even if it's only occasional. We understand that
we are dealing with deeply entrenched opinions and perceptions, but
that is the lot of any educational organization."
Finally, Quebecers have told us very clearly where they want more
information: how to talk about drinking with their children, the latest
scientific data on the beneficial or harmful effects of drinking, and
the relationship between alcohol and health. These are their top three
"People want to drink, but they want us to keep helping them learn how
to drink better. We will address those needs by providing practical
information: how to be a responsible host, tools for measuring
blood-alcohol content, the amount of alcohol it is safe to drink if you
are driving, what a standard drink is. In short, Quebecers want us to
continue helping them become more responsible for their own drinking,"
Hubert Sacy added.
Drinking and driving: our position is vindicated
Éduc'alcool has taken an unequivocal stand on impaired driving. Based on
accepted scientific data, we know that the single most important factor
in changing behaviour on the roads is whether people believe they will
be arrested if they break the law. We have also stated loudly and
clearly that before there can be any discussion on blood-alcohol
content, the number of police sobriety checkpoints must be increased
and people have to know about them.
We therefore added specific questions on this issue in our 21012 survey.
And we have been proven right. While 6% of drivers admit to having
driven while over the legal limit, this is largely because two- thirds
of drivers think there is little or no danger of being stopped for
impaired driving in Quebec. "This attitude is perfectly understandable,
given that we now know that 70% of drivers did not encounter a single
police checkpoint in the last year (the figure rises to 75% in the
Montreal region) and, even worse, that nearly two-thirds of them did
not even see a sobriety checkpoint in the last 12 months. We shall
continue to call for such basic measures to be implemented as a
precondition for any conversation on drunk driving," Éduc'alcool's
Director General stated.
High credibility means added responsibility
Hubert Sacy concluded: "Finally, we will be forgiven for noting with
unabashed pride and satisfaction that Éduc'alcool's credibility rating
still stands at an impressive 92%. That figure is both gratifying and
encouraging. It recognizes our successes and reminds us of what remains
to be accomplished. We are responsible for continuing to improve
Quebecers' relationship with alcohol in that hope that all will truly
come to believe that moderation is always in good taste."
Conducted among more than 1,101 Quebecers, who were interviewed by
telephone for more than 18 minutes on average, the survey - the fifth
of its kind since 1991 - has allowed the relationship that Quebecers
have with alcohol to be studied and compared over the past 20 years.
For further information:
Rosalie Bergeron TACT Intelligence-conseil