Pubdate: Fri, 11 May 2018
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Andrew Dreschel


It'€™s all about harm reduction and improving community health outcomes

No doubt some Hamiltonians are chuckling to hear city council is
considering banning sugary drinks from city buildings to protect
people's health.

With good reason.

The proposed ban by the public health department lands at the same
time the city is moving ahead with opening its first safe injection
site for drug addicts.

It's more than a little ironic that the city may be cracking down on
sugar while enabling the use of illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine.

But, rest assured, both initiatives are for our own good. As a
bureaucrat might say, they're about improving community health outcomes.

Boiled down to the basics, it's all about harm reduction, that is, the
shaping of policies to minimize the effect of stupid things people do
to themselves.

The fact that the potential suppression of soda and fruit juice sales
coincides with the impending legalization of marijuana - despite
medical concerns for young and chronic tokers - also has its ironies.

Mind you, selling marijuana is a federal and provincial affair, or,
more accurately, business. Council itself has directly endorsed the
idea of supervised drug dens and the board of health will look at the
proposed phased-in proscriptions against sugar Monday.

If council does approve banning the sale of sugary drinks and bottled
water at places such as city recreation centres by 2021, hopefully the
restrictions will be extended to any and all future city-supported
safe injections sites as well.

After all, it's bad enough that people are shooting dangerous illegal
drugs into their veins; we can't have them making other terrible
choices such as guzzling weight-gaining pop and using
ecologically-unfriendly plastic bottles at the same time.

There's a price tag for promoting both these socially responsible
policies, of course.

In the case of the safe injection site, the good old province is
providing $116,000 to support a temporary location at the Hamilton
Urban Core Community Health Centre on Rebecca Street.

Staffing and support will be provided by public health and various
community groups. Drug users a€" drug abusers is the better
description a€" will bring their illicit substances to the downtown
haunt where they can shoot up and settle down in the presence of
trained staff members equipped with anti-overdose skills and drugs.

In the case of purging city-owned rec centres of bottled water and
sugar-laced refreshments, public health officials estimate it could
mean an annual loss of approximately $64,000 to the city. They are
hopeful, however, that the lost revenue can be made up through selling
new products. Who knows, maybe some enterprising souls will see an
opportunity here to introduce broccoli juice or cauliflower water to
the concession stands and vending machines.

If the ban is approved by council, sugar addicts will still be able to
bring their own syrupy libations with them into city buildings, though
it's doubtful safe consumption rooms will be set aside for their use.

The sharp end of supervised injection sites is saving lives. Experts
say they reduce overdoses and the spread of diseases. Hamilton had 75
opioid-related fatalities over a 10-month period last year. Though the
idea of publicly sanctioned and funded injection sites may be
offensive to some, helping people on the needle stay alive is the
triumph of compassion over moral revulsion.

On the other hand, the proposed prohibition on candied drinks is
mainly a piece of symbolism tied to public health's three-year
strategy of using city buildings as a working lab for promoting
healthier foods and beverages.

The fact is, Hamiltonians, among other health failings, are more
overweight and obese and have a higher prevalence of high blood
pressure and diabetes relative to the rest of Ontario.

So, even if you object to city officials trying to social engineer
your consumer habits, perhaps you can take solace that at least
someone is keeping an eye on the big picture.
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MAP posted-by: Matt