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New guide on alcohol consumption outlines limits for Canadians

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Canadians should consider limiting their alcohol consumption to two drinks or less per week, according to new national guidance.

The recommendations released Tuesday by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) said that drinking more than two standard drinks — an equivalent of 13.45g of pure alcohol – at a time is associated with increased risks.

The CCSA report is an update to Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines that were published in 2011.

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The update comes after two years of research, a review of nearly 6,000 peer-reviewed studies and about 1,000 survey submissions from the public. Part of the project was funded by Health Canada.

The definition of a standard drink in Canada is equivalent to a bottle of beer, glass of wine, a shot glass of spirits or a bottle of cider.

The harm to yourself and others is “moderate” — meaning a 1 in 100 risk of premature death — if you have three to six drinks weekly, CCSA said. As you increase the intake, the risks grow higher — more steeply for women than men above when they go over six drinks per week.

“The principles that we want to land on is that people have a right to know less is better, and that there’s harm reduction strategies that people can use to decrease the amount that they drink in order to improve their health and well-being,” said Dr. Peter Butt, co-chair of the project to develop Canada’s alcohol guidance.

Guidelines implemented in 2011 considered up to two drinks a day, or 10 a week for women and three daily drinks, or 15 per week, for men as “low risk.”

The updated guidance aims to provide an “evidence base for future alcohol policy and prevention resources, with a view to changing Canada’s drinking culture and curbing the normalization of harmful alcohol use in society,” CCSA said in its report.

“Overwhelming evidence confirms that when it comes to drinking, less alcohol, less consumption means less risk of harm from alcohol,” the guidance stated.

Pregnant people, or those who are trying to get pregnant, are advised to completely refrain from drinking as alcohol can cause birth defects and could have lifelong impacts on the fetus.

Meanwhile, if you are breastfeeding, drinking on occasion is acceptable but no alcohol use is “safest for the baby,” as it takes about two hours for the alcohol to leave the body and breastmilk after consumption.

Even though female bodies are more susceptible to damage from alcohol, men drink more on average and are more likely than women to experience and cause alcohol-related harms, according to research cited in the guidance.

In Canada, the legal drinking age is 19 years and older except for Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta where 18-year-olds are legally permitted to consume alcohol.

CCSA says that youth and young adults should “delay alcohol use for as long as possible” because the risk of adverse outcomes for them is greater compared to adults.

Recent studies show alcohol consumption among Generation Z — those born in the late 1990s to early 2010s — is on the decline as people become more health-conscious and shift to other substances.

The guidance also underlines certain circumstances when no alcohol use is safest such as while driving, using machines and tools, taking medicine or other drugs that interact with alcohol and dangerous physical activity.

 

What are the health effects of drinking alcohol?

There is growing evidence about the negative health impacts of alcohol for those who consume it and others around them.

Alcohol can affect various organs, putting people at increased risk for cirrhosis, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal inflammation, heart disease, multiple cancers as well as injury from falls, violence and motor vehicle crashes, according to research compiled by the CCSA.

It is also the leading preventable cause of death, disability and social problems, CCSA stated.

In 2020, alcohol use was linked to 7,000 new cancer cases in Canada, including 24 per cent of breast cancer cases, 20 per cent of colon cancers, 15 per cent of rectal cancers, and 13 per cent of oral and liver cancers, according to a global study published in the journal Lancet Oncology.

The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) welcomed the new guidelines, saying drinking less alcohol lowers your cancer risk.

“This guidance will help encourage people to rethink if they consume alcohol and when and help them to make an informed decision about that,” said Elizabeth Holmes, senior manager of health policy at the CCS.

To encourage Canadians to adhere to its updated guidance, CCSA said mandatory labelling of all alcoholic beverages with the number of standard drinks in a container, health warnings and the newly released guidance would be effective.

The CSA also said the guidance should be regularly reviewed as more evidence evolves and consumption habits change.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on drinking habits in Canada, with stress, boredom and loneliness contributing to an increase in consumption for nearly a quarter of the population, according to a 2021 Statistics Canada survey.

Meanwhile, around one in five Canadians also said they’ve been drinking less than they did pre-pandemic, and among those aged 15 to 29, one third had decreased their consumption.

To help Canadians cut down on their alcohol intake and slow down its absorption, Butt advised alternating a non-alcoholic beverage with an alcohol beverage and making sure you eat before you start drinking.

Other tips by CCSA included drinking slowly and staying hydrated with lots of water.

“People can socialize, people can enjoy the company of others without necessarily becoming intoxicated, because it’s not just the cumulative effects … it’s also the acute effects,” said Butt.

— with files from Global News’ Kyle Benning and The Canadian Press.

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Germany won't be a 'party to the war' amid tanks exports to Ukraine: Ambassador – CTV News

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The German ambassador to Canada says Germany will not become “a party to the conflict” in Ukraine, despite it and several other countries announcing they’ll answer President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pleas for tanks, possibly increasing the risk of Russian escalation.

Sabine Sparwasser said it’s a “real priority” for Germany to support Ukraine, but that it’s important to be in “lockstep” coordination with other allied countries.

“There is a clear line for Germany,” she told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, in an interview airing Sunday. “We do want not want to be a party to the conflict.”

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“We want to support, we want to do everything we can, but we, and NATO, do not want to be a party to the war,” she also said. “That’s I think, the line we’re trying to follow.”

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced this week Canada will send four Leopard 2 battle tanks — with the possibility of more in the future — to Ukraine, along with Canadian Armed Forces members to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to use them.

Canada first needed permission from Berlin to re-export any of its 82 German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. After a meeting of 50 defence leaders in Germany earlier this month, it was unclear whether Germany would give the green light.

But following what German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called “intensive consultations,” Germany announced on Jan. 25 it would send tanks to Ukraine, and the following day, Canada followed suit. It is now joining several other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Poland, which are sending several dozen tanks to Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week the tanks would allow Ukraine to “significantly strengthen their combat capabilities.”

“It demonstrates also the unit and the resolve of NATO allies in partners in providing support to Ukraine,” he said.

Meanwhile Sparwasser said Germany is “walking that fine line” of avoiding steps that could prompt escalation from Russia, while supporting Ukraine, and staying out of the war themselves.

“I think it’s very important to see that Germany is very determined and has a real priority in supporting Ukraine in its struggle for freedom and sovereignty,” Sparwasser said. “But we also put a high priority on going it together with our friends and allies.”

Sparwasser said despite warnings from Russia that sending tanks to Ukraine will cause an escalation, Germany is within international law — specifically Article 51 of the United Nations Charter — to provide support to Ukraine.

“Ukraine is under attack has the right to self defence, and other nations can come in and provide Ukraine with the means to defend itself,” Sparwasser said. “So in international law terms, this is a very clear cut case.”

She added that considering “Russia doesn’t respect international law,” it’s a more impactful deterrent to Russia, ahead of an expected spring offensive, to see several countries come together in support of Ukraine.

With files from the Associated Press

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COVID: Canada retaining Evusheld – CTV News

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While Health Canada says it is “aware” of the U.S. decision to withdraw the emergency use of Evusheld, a drug by AstraZeneca used to help prevent COVID-19 infection— the agency is maintaining its approval, citing the differences in variant circulation between Canada and the U.S.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Jan. 26 that its emergency use authorization of the drug was pulled due to its inefficacy in treating “certain” COVID-19 variants.

The FDA stated in a release on its website that as the XBB.1.5. variant, nicknamed “Kraken”, is making up the majority of cases in the country, the use of Evusheld is “not expected to provide protection” and therefore not worth exposing the public to possible side effects of the drug, like allergic reactions.

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In an email to CTVNews.ca, Health Canada said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pulled the drug as the main variant of concern in the U.S. is XBB.1.5.

“Dominant variants in the [U.S.] may be different from those circulating in Canada,” the federal agency said in an email. “The most recent epidemiological data in Canada (as of January 1, 2023) indicate that BA.5 (Omicron) subvariants continue to account for more than 89 per cent of reported cases.”

On Jan. 6 the FDA said in press release that certain variants are not neutralized by Evusheld and cautioned people who are exposed to XBB.1.5. On Jan. 26, the FDA then updated its website by saying it would be limiting the use of Evusheld.

“Evusheld is not currently authorized for use in the U.S. until further notice by the Agency,” the FDA website states.

On Jan. 17, Health Canada issued a “risk communication” on Evusheld, explaining how it may not be effective against certain Omicron subvariants when used as a preventative measure or treatment for COVID-19.

“Decisions regarding the use of EVUSHELD should take into consideration what is known about the characteristics of the circulating COVID-19 variants, including geographical prevalence and individual exposure,” Health Canada said in an email.

Health Canada says Evusheld does neutralize against Omicron subvariant BA.2, which according to the agency, is the dominant variant in many communities in Canada.

The drug was introduced for prevention measures specifically for people who have weaker immune systems and are unlikely to be protected by a COVID-19 vaccine. It can only be given to people 12 years and older.

“EVUSHELD is not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is recommended,” the agency’s website reads.

Health Canada says no drug, including Evusheld, is a substitute for vaccination.

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Alberta Justice spokespeople deliver duelling statements on prosecutor email review

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Alberta premier's prosecutor

An email probe into whether Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s office interfered with Crown prosecutors took a confusing turn Friday after two government spokespeople delivered duelling statements that raised questions over how far back the search went.

The review was ordered by Smith a week ago to respond to allegations in a CBC story that reported a staffer in the premier’s office emailed prosecutors last fall to question decisions and direction on cases stemming from a blockade at the Canada-U. S. border crossing at Coutts, Alta.

The Justice Department said Monday it had done a four-month search of ingoing, outgoing and deleted emails and found no evidence of contact.

Two days later, Alberta Justice communications director Charles Mainville said in a statement that deleted emails are wiped from the system after 30 days, meaning the search for deleted emails may not have covered the entire time period in question.

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On Thursday night, Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, a spokesman for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, responded to questions about Mainville’s statement. He said while emails are deleted after 30 days, they live on in the system for another 30 and could have been checked that far back by investigators.

“For example, if an email was deleted on Oct. 17, 2022, the email would no longer be accessible to the user as of Nov. 16, 2022, but would continue to be available to our investigation team until Dec. 16, 2022,” said Lecavalier-Kidney in his statement.

A 60-day search would have stretched back to late November, capturing all but the first six weeks of Smith’s United Conservative Party government. Smith was sworn in as premier on Oct. 11.

But while Lecavalier-Kidney’s statement said investigators could go back 60 days, it did not state that they did so, leaving confusion on how far back they went.

When asked Friday to clarify whether investigators went back 30 or 60 days on the deleted emails, Lecavalier-Kidney did not respond to questions while Mainville reissued the original statements in an email.

The government has also delivered conflicting messages on who was investigated in the review.

Smith promised that emails from all Crown prosecutors and the 34 staffers in her office would be checked.

However, the Justice Department later said emails between “relevant” prosecutors and Smith staffers were checked. It did not say how it determined who was relevant.

The Coutts blockade and COVID-19 protest at the border crossing last year saw RCMP lay charges against several people, ranging from mischief to conspiracy to commit murder.

Smith has said she did not direct prosecutors in the Coutts cases and the email review exonerated her office from what she called “baseless” allegations in the CBC story.

The CBC has said that it has not seen the emails in question but stands by its reporting.

The Opposition NDP said questions stemming from the CBC story, coupled with multiple conflicting statements from the premier on what she has said to Justice Department officials about the COVID-19 cases, can only be resolved through an independent investigation.

Smith has given six versions in recent weeks of what she has said to justice officials about COVID-19 cases.

Smith has said she talked to prosecutors directly and did not talk to prosecutors directly. She has said she reminded justice officials of general prosecution guidelines, but at other times reminded them to consider factors unique to COVID-19 cases. She has also suggested the conversations are ongoing and that they have ended.

She has attributed the confusion to “imprecise” word choices.

Smith has long been openly critical of COVID-19 masking, gathering and vaccine mandate rules, questioning if they were needed to fight the pandemic and labelling them intolerable violations of personal freedoms.

She has also called those unvaccinated against COVID-19 the most discriminated group she has seen in her lifetime.

Last fall, Smith said charges in the cases were grounded in politics and should be open to political solutions. But she recently said it’s important to let the court process play out independently.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2023.

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