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Study: How do Atlantic Canadian Universities perform in campus alcohol policies?

ANTIGONISH, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA --- The Campus Alcohol Policy Project (CAPP), led by Dr. Kara Thompson, Director of the SHEA (Substance Use & Health in Emerging Adulthood) lab and Associate Professor of Psychology at StFX, brought together alcohol policy experts and stakeholders from 12 Atlantic Canadian Universities to evaluate campus alcohol policies against best practice. This project was funded by Research Nova Scotia through a New Health Investigator Award to Dr. Thompson.

“Concerns about alcohol use and its harms have been top of mind in 2023 with the release of Canada’s new guidance on alcohol and health, and the CAPE 3.0 findings,” says Thompson, “Young adults are the heaviest consumers of alcohol and universities play an important role in shaping the culture around alcohol on their campuses. Our goal was to give campuses the tools they need to strengthen their alcohol policies and reduce student drinking and harm”

Today, the SHEA lab released a detailed report which shows how campuses are faring in 10 different policy domains including (1) Availability and Access, (2) Advertising and Sponsorship, (3) Harm Reduction, (4) Pricing, (5) Campus Services, (6) Bar and Event Practices, (7) Community Action, (8) Leadership and Surveillance, (9) Health and Safety Messages, (10) Enforcement.

This study is modelled after the methodology used by the Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation Project (CAPE) which assessed provincial and territorial alcohol policies. The project involved creating an evidence-based scoring rubric, collecting relevant policy data from across campuses, and scoring campuses on how they fared across the 10 different policy domains. The project also relied on campus stakeholders to validate the data and ensure its accuracy. Each of the 12 campuses will receive a detailed report card of their specific policy strengths and areas for improvement.

Out of 100%, the average campus alcohol policy score was 33%. The highest policy score was 49% and the lowest campus score was 15%. The report offers tailored recommendations for how campuses can improve their scores and strengthen their policies in each of the 10 domains.

Dr. Thompson highlights that higher scores are achievable. Although individual scores are low, a model campus implementing the current best policies in place across the 12 campuses would score 74%. Campuses are encouraged to work together and share these best practices to collectively strengthen their campus alcohol policies in support of student health.

“The New Health Investigator Grant supports early-career health researchers who focus on the efficient and effective delivery of healthcare to Nova Scotians,” says Stefan Leslie, CEO of Research Nova Scotia. “Issues surrounding alcohol use on Nova Scotia campuses continue to be debated and ongoing research in this area will ultimately lead to improved approaches.”

For an interview with Dr. Kara Thompson or Stefan Leslie, contact Cindy MacKenzie or 902-872-0612.

About St. Francis Xavier University (StFX)

Established in 1853, St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) is consistently recognized as one of the best universities in Canada. StFX exceeds the needs of today’s undergraduates through providing the very best academic experience -- outstanding teaching, exceptional hands-on research opportunities, and global exchanges -- all within Canada’s most vibrant and inspiring residential campus. Here, the focus is on the academic and the personal development of every student, making community and social engagement a large part of the learning experience. Our students are academically strong and highly engaged in every aspect of life, determined to make a positive impact on the world.

In 2022, Maclean's annual university rankings put StFX #1 in student satisfaction and #2 in reputation across Canada in the primarily undergraduate category.

For more, visit

About Research Nova Scotia

Research Nova Scotia supports, organizes, and coordinates research. With the curiosity to imagine a better world, and the determination to make it real, we champion the people and resources needed to improve the lives of Nova Scotians. Learn more about our research missions at


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