Canadian Underwriter

Toronto city staff warn of ‘increased risk-taking behaviour’ when combining alcohol with caffeine drinks

March 14, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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Toronto’s board of health will consider Monday a proposal to require organizers of events on city property to “be familiar” with a federal government warning against mixing alcohol with caffeinated energy drinks.

Health Canada prohibits the sale of pre-packaged, premixed alcoholic caffeinated energy drinks. Federal rules also require that caffeinated energy drinks to carry the label “do not mix with alcohol,” Toronto City Staff noted in a report issued in February.

The agenda for the March 20 Board of Health meeting includes a recommendation that City Council amend Toronto’s Municipal Alcohol Policy to require event organizers to be familiar with Health Canada’s warning against mixing alcohol with caffeinated energy drinks.

The Municipal Alcohol Policy applies to events held on city properties where alcohol is served by holders of a special occasion permit or a valid liquor sales licence with a catering endorsement. City properties include property occupied, leased or licensed by the city. It also includes properties leased or licensed soley to the city and properties leased or licensed out solely by the city to a third party. The staff report, by Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe, is titled Municipal Alcohol Policy Update on Alcohol and Caffeinated Energy Drinks. Examples of municipal property subject to the policy include buildings, recreation centres, parks, stadium, public squares and public rights of way.

“The public health community in Ontario has raised concerns related to the likelihood of excessive drinking when consuming alcohol mixed with CEDs and the suggestion that caffeine in energy drinks can mask the symptoms of intoxication, accounting for increased risk-taking behaviour such as impaired driving and violence,” according to the staff report. “Some studies suggest that a combination of alcohol and CEDs masks the depressant effects of alcohol and signs of intoxication. The results of a recent systematic review support an association between consumption of alcohol mixed with CEDs and an increased risk of injury. Further research is required to determine if this is a casual relationship.”

Dr. Yaffe is recommending that the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and Smart Serve Ontario “consider updating the Smart Serve” training program to increase awareness of Health Canada’s caution statement not to mix alcohol with caffeinated energy drinks.

Another recommendation on the agenda of the Toronto Board of Health meeting is that City Council be asked to require organizers of events subject to the Municipal Alcohol Policy “to raise awareness of Health Canada’s caution statement with event bartenders.” Staff are also recommending that City Council “request event organizers to consider not selling and/or not distributing caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol.”

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