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‘They’re not candy’: Father of dead teen backs coroner’s call for tighter rules for drinks like FCKD UP

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A Quebec coroner has concluded teenager Athéna Gervais drowned in February 2018 behind her Laval high school after drinking large quantities of a high-alcohol sugary drink.

The 14-year-old’s death led some companies to pull such drinks from store shelves and governments to tighten the rules around their manufacturing and sales.

“Athéna Gervais consumed a large quantity of alcohol in a very short period of time,” Coroner Martin Larocque said in his report, released Wednesday morning.

He said Gervais and some friends shared three 568-ml cans of the drink FCKD UP, which has an alcohol content of 11.9 per cent, although he noted Gervais alone consumed most of the drinks.

The coroner found that Athéna Gervais drank almost three full cans of FCKD UP sugary alcohol beverage in under 30 minutes — the equivalent of 12 glasses of wine. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The amount of alcohol was equivalent to around 12 glasses of wine, and the coroner said it was consumed in less than 30 minutes.

Gervais’s body was found in a stream behind École Poly-Jeunesse in northwest Laval on March 1, 2018, three days after she went missing.

“In my opinion, Athéna Gervais found herself disoriented and accidentally fell into a creek. Her cognitive state was so disrupted because of her drinking that she died,” Larocque said.

“We must take away from the death of Athéna Gervais that it’s imperative that a set of measures be adopted to prevent the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, both with minor children and young adults.”

Federal government should go further, says coroner

Larocque recommends such beverages — often found in colourful cans -— should be required to have neutral packaging like cigarettes.

Athéna Gervais’s close friends attended her funeral in Saint-Félicien, in the Saguenay region of Quebec, in March 2018. Gervais’s friends and family campaigned to have high-alcohol, sugary drinks banned after her death. (Priscilla Plamondon Lalancette/Radio-Canada)

He also recommended that the federal government limit the alcohol content in the drinks to the equivalent of one serving per can. This goes further than the draft legislation introduced by the Trudeau government after Gervais’s death, which allows for one and a half servings per can.

Larocque also recommended rules that limit how such drinks can be advertised on radio and TV be extended to social media and the internet.

Drinks marketed like ‘candy’: Athéna’s father

Alain Gervais, Athéna’s father, attended the news conference where Larocque released his report Wednesday.

Alain Gervais, Athéna’s father, said Wednesday that sugary alcoholic drinks are still far too accessible to young people at convenience stores. (Radio-Canada)

He said it’s still far too easy for young people to access these types of drinks at convenience stores.  

“The advertising is too strong for these products; the attractive colours make it seem like they’re candy,” said Gervais.

“They’re not candy. They’re dangerous.”

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