Advocates and business owners in the beverage industry say new guidance for drinking alcohol could speed up changing consumer drinking habits as younger generations drink less and non-alcoholic beverages become more popular. 

A report released earlier this month by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, funded by Health Canada, stirred up widespread attention when it said that consuming more than two drinks per week constituted a moderate health risk due to evidence linking alcohol to cancer — a big change from previous guidance that said men could have up to 15 drinks per week with low risk, and women up to 10. 

Some in the drink and hospitality industry were critical of the new guidelines, though they didn’t dispute the need for moderation in alcohol consumption. 

But the new guidelines aren’t the nail in the coffin for the beverage industry, businesses say — though they may hasten the shift in consumer habits that were already underway. 

Nick Kennedy, the owner of Toronto cocktail bar Civil Liberties, says in recent years, customers have been looking to drink less and explore more non-alcoholic options.

He says he doesn’t think drinking will ever go away because it’s so ingrained in social culture, but he does think attitudes toward alcohol will continue to shift and businesses need to adapt. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 30, 2023.