Advocate: economy-size discounted mouthwash can kill

August 14, 2010 at 1:07 am 1 comment

A version of this story appears on VibrantVictoria.
By Robert Randall

A local advocate working with Victoria’s Downtown street community is upset at a local retailer’s potentially fatal promotion.

Margaret O’Donnell, Executive Director of The Oasis Society for the Spiritual Health of Victoria says that prominently displayed sale-priced mouthwash at the new Saanich WalMart is proving to be too tempting for local hard-core alcoholics.

O’Donnell contacted Uptown’s WalMart manager to let him know that two homeless individuals cashed their government cheque and walked to the box store’s pharmacy last Tuesday afternoon and bought four $4.95 bottles of Listerine mouthwash. The two walked back into town and proceeded to ingest all four bottles over the course of the rest of the afternoon. By 7:00 p.m. they were rushed to hospital with alcohol poisoning.

One litre bottles of Listerine on display near the entrance of the Uptown WalMart. The $5.79 price displayed this week is well below the regular price offered at many Downtown pharmacies. Photo by Robert Randall ©

O’Donnell says that mouthwashes, which can contain up to 27 percent alcohol, should be stocked behind the pharmacy counter and should only be dispensed upon request and at the pharmacist’s discretion.

O’Donnell is also concerned about the easy availability of one-litre jugs of 99 percent isopropyl alcohol on sale for less than five dollars, noting that while restricting the sale large bottles of non-beverage alcohol will not stop binge drinking, it may reduce instances of its abuse.

Many Victoria-area alcoholics are banned from Downtown pharmacies for reasons related to alcohol abuse. Pharmacy policies regarding mouthwash vary although most have their mouthwash stocked over the counter. Downtown’s View Street Pharmacy offers one-litre bottles of Listerine on store shelves at $8.95.

Recent research has shown that British Columbia’s per capita alcohol consumption is rising at a faster rate than in the rest of Canada. The BC Coalition for Action on Alcohol Reform says the annual cost of alcohol abuse in BC is $2.2 billion, or $536 per person. Many harm reduction experts favour “wet shelters” as a way of stabilizing hard-core alcoholics who are unable to quit drinking. Residents living in a wet shelter are given small servings of alcohol on a regular basis by health professionals. This greatly reduces incidences of excessive drinking and allows alcoholics to live healthier, more productive lives.

Copyright © 2010 by All rights reserved.

Entry filed under: social issues.

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