Associations between COVID-19 alcohol policy restrictions and alcohol sales in British Columbia: variation by area-based deprivation level

James M. Clay, Fariha Alam, Jinhui Zhao, Sam Churchill, Timothy Naimi, Tim Stockwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Government alcohol sales data were used to investigate associations between estimates of per capita age 15+ alcohol consumption, policy restrictiveness, and area-level deprivation.

Method: We analyzed weekly consumption data (expressed as per capita age 15+ Canadian standard drinks [13.45 g of pure ethanol]) collected from all 89 local health areas in British Columbia, Canada, between April 2017 and April 2021. Our analyses were stratified by outlet type (total, on-premise, and off-premise). Our intervention was alcohol policy restrictiveness (operationalized by the Restrictiveness of Alcohol Policy Index), and our moderator was area-level deprivation (Canadian Index of Multiple Deprivation). The Restrictiveness of Alcohol Policy Index included hours of trading, the number of people permitted on site for on-premise venues, the proportion of outlets in operation, and the extent of permissible home delivery.

Results: Higher policy restrictiveness was associated with decreased consumption across all outlet types (ps < .001): when the most restrictive policies were implemented, consumption was reduced by 9% and 100% in off- and on-premise outlets, respectively. Area-based deprivation level modified the effect of policy restriction on per capita alcohol consumption (ps < .007): for total and off-premise consumption, the decrease was greatest among more economically deprived areas (ps < .001); for on-premise outlets, areas with a high proportion of racial and ethnic minorities increased their consumption (ps < .001).

Conclusions: Alcohol-specific policy restrictions implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were associated with reduced consumption. However, the magnitude and direction of change was moderated by area-based deprivation level, albeit inconsistently across various deprivation measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-433
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2023


  • COVID-19
  • alcohol
  • policy
  • deprivation
  • public health
  • SES

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