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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.

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."