Buying certain brands of beer at NB Liquor stores could save you money this summer, but one public researcher who focuses on alcohol consumption is asking, at what cost?

“Pricing systems for alcohol are hugely important to public health and safety, hugely important,” says Julie McEachern. “It’s a vital part of public health policy.”

McEachern has been following how and where NB Liquor is selling its products, such as a pilot project which allows grocery stores to sell wine. The project has been growing over the last two years and is now in place in 17 locations.

“Even having it within grocery stores, it normalizes that for youth,” she says. “They see it sold near the produce section next to produce and juice and everything, so these kids will see alcohol as an important commodity.”

Now she is zeroing in on NB Liquor’s latest beer promotion – deep discounts on certain brands of beer to boost sales this summer. While brew lovers are taking advantage of the sales on suds, McEachern worries about the health and social effects of encouraging alcohol consumption.

“You know, we’re not just selling an ordinary commodity here. Alcohol is a drug,” she says.

The Department of Health has been studying the health and social effects of alcohol and is in what it calls preliminary discussions with NB Liquor about harm reduction.

“Alcohol does have social and health and economic impacts on its population,” says Dr. Cristin Muecke, New Brunswick’s acting deputy chief medical officer of health.

McEachern says boosting alcohol sales should be given the same scrutiny that a provincial government group is giving to the eventual legalization of marijuana – something NB Liquor has indicated it would like to sell in the future, as it faces pressure to make more money.

In the last provincial budget, the Department of Finance said new business opportunities at the Crown corporation were expected to make $20 million in additional revenue.

In a brief written statement, NB Liquor said it was only fulfilling customer demand.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore