February 1, 2018
Learn how provincial and territorial governments can limit exposure to alcohol advertising
Inside this alcohol policy pack
- Background evidence: Alcohol and cancer
- Evidence-informed alcohol policy actions to reduce alcohol consumption in Canada
- Key statistics: Alcohol consumption in Canada’s largest cities
- Key statistics: Alcohol consumption in provinces and territories
- Public perceptions: Alcohol and cancer
- Economic evidence to support alcohol policy
- Indicators to measure progress on alcohol policy
Alcohol advertising and promotion
Restrict or ban alcohol advertising and promotions1,2,3
Enforce and expand regulation of alcohol advertising content and formats2
Degree of adoption in Canada
Current actions in Canada
Adoption of evidence-informed policy action related to enforcing and expanding regulation of alcohol advertising content and formats across Canada is medium. Although most provinces and territories have advertising-content restrictions for alcoholic beverages that exceed the Code for broadcast advertising of alcoholic beverages set by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), measures are varied across provinces and territories.
Various advertising formats are also permitted across most provinces and territories with some restrictions. However, exemptions to the Code and format restrictions are provided for advertisements that promote social responsibility, such as those that address cancer and chronic disease prevention.
All provinces and territories must adhere to the CRTC Code for broadcast advertising of alcoholic beverages, which prohibits content directed at minors and content that promotes misuse of alcohol, social acceptance, success and depicts other lifestyle benefits. Most provinces and territories have implemented various additional policy measures that exceed the Code:
- Saskatchewan includes zoning restrictions for placement of advertisements near elementary or secondary schools or places of worship.
- New Brunswick includes restrictions on the frequency of advertisement in radio and television formats.
- Prince Edward Island, Québec and Ontario also prohibit the representation of alcoholic beverages as being beneficial to health or possessing a nutritive or curative value.
A few provinces and territories have restrictions on advertising price promotions. Ontario, Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories are not permitted to use language within advertisements that suggest that beverages are cheap or low cost, such as with the advertisement of Happy Hour specials, and New Brunswick cannot advertise free beverages in dining rooms.
Most provinces and territories permit alcohol advertising in various formats such as print (magazines and newspapers), radio and television, billboards, signs and online formats, given that they comply with the CRTC Code and additional advertising restrictions set by the jurisdiction where applicable, and are approved by alcohol-control governing bodies.
Prince Edward Island does not permit advertising by billboard or illuminated sign but provides exemptions for its liquor commission and agency stores. Yukon and Nunavut also do not permit advertising of alcohol in print, radio and television, billboard, or electric or illuminated sign formats unless approved by liquor-control governing bodies.
Most provinces and territories grant exemptions to advertising content and format restrictions that promote social responsibility or worthwhile causes, such as promoting awareness of responsible levels of consumption and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
1- World Health Organization (2013). Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases. Retrieved from:
2- Cancer Care Ontario (2016). Prevention System Quality Index. Retrieved from: https://www.cancercareontario.ca/en/statistical-reports/prevention-system-quality-index
3- Public Health Ontario/Cancer Care Ontario (2012). Taking Action to Prevent Chronic Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.ccohealth.ca/en/report-taking-action-to-prevent-chronic-disease