In the last few days, a new questioning of the relevance of a state monopoly for the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) has marked the news. Fortunately, the government has closed the door on the possibility of abandoning this mechanism. By giving the State guides to commercial practices, this decision follows good management practices for products that may harm public health or safety according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization.

However, the logic behind the decision is worrying: Minister Eric Girard points to the $2.2 billion profits that the SAQ makes as the main argument. Moreover, the state corporation and the Ministers of Finance, Mr. Girard like some of his predecessors, often tend to overestimate the profits by omitting the social and health harms of the substance, to which the SAQ contributes through the advertising and promotional activities related to the price of products.

In its Comprehensive Alcohol-Related Harm Reduction Strategy, the WHO indeed reiterates the importance of not only keeping state alcohol monopolies in place, but also giving them a mandate of social responsibility. Currently, this social responsibility of the SAQ has a very limited vision that deserves to be reconsidered.

To review the practices of the SAQ in the service of the general interest of Quebecers, we must first review the mission and governance of the SAQ. As such, the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) is an inspiring model that legitimizes the absence of advertising, aims for availability and safe access to cannabis and reinvests profits in research and prevention, for the benefit of our health care system. health.

Of course, we are not talking about neutral stores or bottles. But there is wiggle room! If you have ever visited the LCBO in Ontario or a liquor store in New Brunswick, you will see that we are in a world apart with promotional emails, Inspire points, tasting bars at certain branches, discounts on multiple purchases, SAQ podcasts, giant ads on bus shelters and storefronts, etc. A questioning here is really relevant!

We must stop being happy to make more money if it is by contributing to the increase in injuries, illnesses or violence that taxpayers must pay in return in the health care system, social services or police interventions . The SAQ must once again become the instrument for reducing the harmful effects of a product while ensuring a safe supply for people who wish to consume it.

Compromising sustainable health in the name of profit is not acceptable.