Responsible Selling…Healthy Communities

Following the kick-off of the 1=What? education campaign, created to inform consumers and retailers of alcohol equivalencies, the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (N.E.T.)  in the McCauley community has been working with merchants and community stakeholders to monitor and mitigate the existing and potential increase in consumption of non-beverage alcohol (NBA) products.

Results of a survey NET undertook indicated that approximately 4 per cent of respondents would turn to non-beverage alcohol (NBA) if their product of choice wasn’t available. NBA is sold in regular grocery and pharmacy stores, and contains the pure form of ethyl alcohol. Examples are rubbing alcohol, household cleaners, vanilla extract, some mouthwashes, aftershave, and some cooking wines. Inhalants are usually any product that has a strong chemical content used for sniffing (glue, lighter fluid, nail polish remover, gasoline, and paint thinners.

A study found that the most common users are between the ages of 8 and 16  and that 5.6 per cent of Alberta students (under age 18) in 2002 had used inhalants in the previous 12 months. 1 Among those who were receiving addiction treatment in Alberta in 2003/2004, 1 per cent admitted to using inhalants in the previous year.

But inner city addictions experts and frontline agency staff indicate the number of people who use non-beverage products as either a drug of choice or a replacement in time of need is underreported. The problem is larger than statistics show.

Many non-beverage users turn to these substances because of its accessibility and low cost. 2 This means that retailers of these products can help to decrease the opportunities for abuse by youth and adults in our community.

The McCauley Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (N.E.T.) has launched a project called ‘Responsible Selling…Healthy Communities’ to reduce access to these products.

My partners, Constable Chapman Lee, Trisha Shackleton and I have been canvassing McCauley vendors and bringing the problem to their attention. We are providing them with strategies for appropriate sales and making them aware of the responsibility they have under the Public Health Act to avoid selling these products for consumption. Many have agreed to partner in the appropriate sale of these products and are happy to do their part in taking care of the community. Some of the strategies suggested are listed below:

  • Sell these items behind the counter or near the till to prevent ease of theft.
  • Increase respectful questioning that should occur when someone may be suspected of consuming the product.
  • Increase awareness of consumer rights as well as retailers’ obligations under the Public Health Act.
  • Alternately, make a decision not to sell potentially harmful products.

Information is being provided to owners and managers in the neighborhood and we hope that many are now committed to adjusting their selling practices for this community-based initiative.

Feel free to give this information to your community! Create awareness of the problem and hold local vendors accountable for their responsibility to the community and to the law.

We know that alcohol over-consumption has a correlation to violent crime. Acknowledging that addiction is a complex community concern, the N.E.T. team in McCauley is working to reduce the over-service and over-consumption of high volume, high percentage alcohol and NBA. We are hoping it will be an ongoing initiative, involving all community stakeholders.

Follow up on Twitter for updates @Tricia_NET or @Cst_Lee

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1 Alberta Health Services, AADAC. (2010). Beyond the ABCs Solvents/Inhalants, ISBN 0-7785-0095-0, Available at http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/AddictionsSubstanceAbuse/hi-asa-beyond-abcs-solvents-and-inhalants.pdf

2 Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on drug use, 2009/2010, The Winnipeg site network team, 1-29.

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About the Author
Tricia Boonstra
Tricia Boonstra is a social worker with the City of Edmonton and a member of a specialized Neighbourhood Empowerment Team working in the McCauley neighbourhood. Tricia and her partners Constable Chapman Lee and Trisha Shackleton work with the community to identify and implement ways to reduce and prevent crime and the fear of crime.
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