THUNDER BAY – Sometimes you need a little finesse, sometimes you need a lot. That advertising slogan for a popular hair spray takes on a very different meaning in Thunder Bay.
There are literally hundreds of empty hair-spray bottles along with mouthwash, and hand sanitizer bottles all over the laneways and sidewalks in our downtown cores.
A few meters from Thunder Bay City Hall, where the new “Don’t be Trashy” campaign banner is on the trash bin, there are messes that make parts of our city look very trashy.
A short walk around downtown with a trash bag on any average day can result in a very short time before that bag is filled empty hair spray containers. As well there were hand sanitizer containers, empty mouthwash containers, and hordes of needles.
The signs of addiction and the urban blight that mars our great community until society starts to do more about it.
Talk and fancy slogans are a part of the solution. But so is real action.
The impact of addiction in Thunder Bay is an expensive one. The cost to policing, emergency services, courts and treatment all add up. The number of incidents that Police respond to for intoxicated people appears to be rising every year.
Finesse hairspray bottles are atop the list sadly as the apparent intoxicant of choice in the Fort William Downtown.
Hairspray can contain up to 50% denatured alcohol by volume; in a 14 fluid oz. bottle that mean it contains as much as 7 fluid oz. of ethanol, the equivalent of 14 1.25-oz. shots of 80-proof liquor.
The product sells for about $2.50 per bottle, making it a very inexpensive alternative for serious addicts. It works out to about thirty-five cents per shot.
The product is freely sold – in some cases to people in volumes well above normal amounts a customer might use for hair care. Store policies in the downtown may have the product behind the counter in many stores, or simply not being sold at all, but that is more of an effort to reduce shoplifting than restricting sales.
In downtown Fort William, Renco Foods in Centennial Square do not sell hairspray.
The Bargain Shop on Brodie Street sells the product but keeps hairspray behind the counter.
Shoppers Drug Mart on Arthur Street has the product readily available on the shelf.
Efforts by some local business people to talk to some businesses selling hairspray have led nowhere in terms of taking a more responsible stand on sale of the product.
The impact is seen across the city, where this cheap and toxic intoxicant is hammering the lives of so many people.
Thunder Bay struggles under issues with intoxicants. The city has a higher than average consumption of alcohol than most of Ontario. Those figures are an indication of the problem.
The addiction issues that harm people can in some cases be solved by making products safer. They can also be solved over time by education.
To a degree, perhaps the issue of alcohol in hairspray is not too far from the issues that faced tobacco companies as governments placed increased sanctions on those companies to warn the public, and place increased restrictions on the products.
The damage caused by improper use of the product could also be examined by governments.
Banning the product won’t really change things, the main issue is one of addiction.
Changing the product could help in making it less accessible.
Contact with Finesse to seek comment was made before drafting this article. The company has not returned calls or emails.