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Dr. Gregory Taylor, chief public health officer of Canada, at an Ottawa news conference on Jan. 29.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The country's chief public health officer has tabled a report to Parliament on alcohol consumption by Canadians, which warns of the potential health risks from even low levels of drinking.

Dr. Gregory Taylor says drinking booze has become a normalized activity, with almost 80 per cent of Canadians tippling wine, beer or spirits – some of them to excess.

Taylor says alcohol consumption is related to more than 4,000 deaths each year, and 230 of them are directly caused by alcohol poisoning.

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And each year, about 3,000 babies are born in Canada with fetal alcohol syndrome caused by women drinking during pregnancy; about 330,000 Canadians live with cognitive impairments from the disorder.

The report points out that alcohol is also a known carcinogenic that's been implicated in the development of breast, colorectal, oral and liver cancers.

Taylor says the purpose of the report is to educate Canadians about alcohol-related health risks.

"We think of alcohol in Canada more as a food or a beverage, but in fact it's a mind-altering psychotrophic drug," Taylor said from Ottawa. "If there's one key message that I'd like to get across, it's that it's not harmless."

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