Lee-Anne Richardson says she's hearing from many young Canadians about reducing their alcohol intake, drinking non-alcoholic beverages, or choosing full-blown sobriety.
The Dartmouth, N.S., resident is the founder of Sober City, a peer-support group for people struggling with addiction.
Richardson feels that millennials and Gen Z are making more informed choices around the negative effects of alcohol compared to previous generations, and are more open to having comprehensive conversations surrounding their mental health.
"They're like, I don't want to go down that road, so I'm going to completely abstain or cut back or things like that," she said. "I think that younger people see alcohol as a way to make anxiety worse, to make mental health issues worse."
According to the World Health Organization's May 2022 report on alcohol, harmful use can cause death and disability "relatively early in life" in people aged 20-39, with 13.5% of total deaths attributable to alcohol.
Non-alcoholic drinks are helpful for some people who are sober or monitor their alcohol use, but not for everyone, Richardson says.
"It can be triggering because it tastes and smells and looks like the real thing, but overall, I think they're a really, really good idea and they're helping, especially young people, to stick to reduced drinking or complete sobriety."
Gail Lynch, CEO of Zero Cocktail Bar in Toronto, says millennials and Gen Z aren't consuming alcohol the way those of her generation from the '60s and '70s did, because there's less stigma around people choosing not to drink.
She also says the zero-proof market has grown to include a wide array of options.
"When I started doing this, I maybe found three products in the market," she said. "Now there are over 200 in the Canadian market."
When asked by Day 6 host Brent Bambury about what surprises customers the most when they sip a non-alcoholic cocktail for the first time, Lynch said people are surprised by how good it tastes.
"I wanted to satisfy my own need, and that is, can I make a drink for myself? And so I started to do some research and realized, I can probably do this. I just started to experiment and research. Then I invited some friends over to try those zero-proof cocktails and they loved them. I knew that I had something that I needed to take to the market," Lynch said.
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