Fredericton — Two researchers at University of New Brunswick Fredericton are positing that the New Brunswick government’s pilot project of offering wine in select grocery stores has opened the floodgates for alcoholism, drinking and driving, and a province-wide state of chaotic debauchery.
Sarah Haines, a post-doctoral fellow at UNB, and Rachel Dunsworth, Haines’ BFF since Grade 7, have started a petition to eliminate the program, as the government has allowed it to continue into 2016. The teetotalling researchers hope that reasonable New Brunswickers will sign.
“We know that New Brunswick, as a whole, has a drinking problem, and the only appropriate course of action is to tell these fully grown adults that they aren’t allowed to have booze,” said Dunsworth. “A huge body of research — well, our research, anyway — has determined that shutting down venues for people to access liquor will immediately cause them to want it less. If they can’t get it after 9 p.m. sharp, and only between noon and 5 p.m. on Sundays, and only in locations a half-hour drive from their homes, it follows that they’ll stop thinking about it.”
“It’s basic psychology,” added Haines. “It’s like when you tell a teenage boy that it’s wrong to look at porn on the Internet. He immediately loses interest in it and never watches it again. In the same way, we think terminating the sale of alcohol at least in grocery stores will eliminate alcoholism, and thus lower healthcare costs in New Brunswick.”
In Ontario, Quebec and most other provinces, alcohol is far more widely available than it is in New Brunswick. And, the rates of alcoholism are lower: 25.1 percent of New Brunswickers had 5 or more drinks at one time at least once per month in the last year (considered “heavy drinking”) while the national average is 19 percent, according to the New Brunswick Health Council’s latest population health snapshot. Those who oppose Haines’ and Dunsworth’s research have also pointed to other countries where alcohol is more accessible but where alcoholism is not plaguing the population.
“Those things are not connected,” said Dunsworth. “Pure coincidence. It’s been shown time and again that taking something away from someone or making it harder to get also snuffs out the desire for the thing in question. It’s like when you tell a child they can go in any room except this one. Children will stick to playing in the allowed rooms — why go into the forbidden room when there are plenty of perfectly good and permissible places to play?”
Fredericton man Danny Jardine, 34, said he has completely stopped drinking and driving since wine has been offered in grocery stores. “The Superstore is only a 5-minute walk from my house,” he explained. “When I’m drinking and NB Liquor closes at 9, instead of having to drive half-drunk all the way out to the Irving on the Hanwell to buy more beer, I can stumble over to the Superstore.
“No one’s hurt, and I don’t run the chance of getting a DUI. But I guess if the research says I won’t drink and drive if they take wine out of the grocery stores, who am I to argue?”
Mark Wright, a spokesman for NB Liquor, was quick to defend the Crown corporation’s right to sell wine in grocery stores. “These wine sales accounted for only 0.05 percent of all product sold this year,” he said. “In what world is offering people a bit more selection and choice harming the population?”
“Another great example is when a movie is rated R,” Haines chimed in, apparently not hearing the question. “The masses collectively realize they shouldn’t be watching that kind of thing, and the film inevitably tanks in the box office.”
The researchers are also starting a separate petition to raise the drinking age to 40, and to cut it off at 55.