Repeal of National Prohibition
National Prohibition in the US was repealed in 1933, but the temperance
mentality is alive and well.
Because Constitutionally mandated Prohibition is widely recognized
as having been a disastrous failure and currently lacks political
support, modern prohibitionists are using a different approach to
achieving their goal. 1
Their tactic is to establish cultural rather than strictly legal
prohibition by making alcohol beverages less socially acceptable
and marginalizing those who drink, no matter how moderately. Like
the hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation and other prohibitionists who
preceded them, modern prohibitionists (or neo-prohibitionists) don’t
distinguish between the use and the abuse of alcohol.
The zealots who propagandized for the disastrous National Prohibition
(1920-1933) acted in a time when there was little scientific knowledge
about the effects of alcohol and they had strange ideas. Consider
- Alcohol is the dirtiest drug we have. It permeates and damages
all tissue. No other drug can cause the same degree of harm that
- Alcohol is harmful to the body.
- Alcohol is a poison and drinking it might lead to death.
- Alcohol is toxic (no level of consumption indicated).
- The effects of alcohol on men (no level of consumption indicated)
are that hormone levels change, causing lower sex drive and enlarged
- Alcohol is a gateway drug leading people into illicit drug
- Alcohol (no level of consumption indicated) can cause deterioration
of the heart muscle.
Astonishingly, all these statements, which are very misleading
at best, were not made by prohibitionists of old but by officials
representing governmental agencies of today. Significantly, the
comments are not based on scientific evidence but instead seem to
reflect a neo-prohibitionist effort to stigmatize alcohol.
Because of the clear failure of prohibition, today's neo-prohibitionists
and other reduction-of-consumption advocates now typically call
for a variety of laws and other measures to reduce rather than completely
prohibit consumption. They tend to believe
- The substance of alcohol is, in and of itself, the cause of
all drinking problems.
- The availability of alcohol determines the extent to which it
will be consumed; availability causes people to drink more.
- The quantity of alcohol consumed (rather than the speed with
which it is consumed, the purpose for which it is consumed, the
social environment in which it is consumed, etc.) determines the
extent of drinking problems.
- Educational efforts should stress the problems that alcohol
consumption can cause and should promote abstinence.
These beliefs lead neo-prohibitionists (often called reduction-of-consumptionists,
neo-drys, or neo-Victorians) to call for such measures as:
- Increasing taxes on alcohol beverages
- Limiting or reducing the number of sales outlets
- Limiting the alcohol content of drinks
- Prohibiting or limiting advertising
- Requiring warning messages with all advertisements
- Expanding the warning labels on all alcohol beverage containers
- Expanding the display of warning signs in establishments that
sell or serve alcohol beverages
- Limiting the days or hours during which alcohol beverages can
- Increasing server liability for subsequent problems associated
- Limiting the sale of alcohol beverages to people of specific
- Decreasing the legal blood alcohol content level for driving
- Eliminating the tax deductibility of alcohol beverages as a
Unfortunately for the neo-prohibitionists, the scientific evidence
doesn’t provide good support for their recommendations. For
more, visit Law and Policy.
To learn more about some of the major neo-prohibitionist groups
and individuals, visit:
- 1. Actually, a few people actually
promote the idea that Prohibition was a success. For example, Joe
Califano, head of the anti-alcohol National Center on Addiction
and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, asserts that
- alcohol consumption dropped from 1.96 gallons
per person in 1919 to 0.97 gallons per person in 1934, the first
after Prohibition ended. Death rates from cirrhosis among men
from 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 to 10.7 per 100,000 in 1929. During
Prohibition, admission to mental health institutions for alcohol
dropped 60 percent; arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct went
percent; welfare agencies reported significant declines in cases
alcohol-related family problems, and the death rate from impure
did not rise. Nor did Prohibition generate a crime wave. Homicide
increased at a higher rate between 1900 and 1910 than during Prohibition,
and organized crime was well established in the cities before
(Califano, Joseph. Fictions and facts about drug legalization.
America, 1996 (March 16), 174(9), 7-10)
- Similarly, Mark Moore wrote an editorial in the New York Times
titled “Actually, Prohibition was a Success.” Califano
and Moore are also joined by a few religious writers who make the
same claim. Some of the latter also argue that Jesus did not drink
wine but grape juice instead.
- Amenda, P. J. Temperance for a New Age: The Crusade Against
Drunk Driving, 1980-1997. (Fresno, CA: California State University,
M.A. thesis, 1998).
- American Heart Association. In Response to the Center for Science
in the Public Interest's Report on Trans Fatty Acids. (Available
The American Heart Association takes issue with some of the unscientific
assertions of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
- Bennett, J. and DiLorenzo, T. Food and Drink Police: Center
for Science in the Public Interest Wants Government to Control Our
Eating Habits. Washington, DC: Capital Research Center, 1998.
(Available at www.heartland.org/archives/health/may02/police.htm)
- Bonvie, L., and Bonvie, B. Strong-arming an innocent herb. Providence
Journal, May 10, 2000. (Available at www.stevia.net/article.htm)
Demonstrates the Center for Science in the Public Interest's lack
of even-handedness in selecting the targets it selects to attack.
Ironically, the Center for Science in the Public Interest makes
a big issue of integrity....not its own but the alleged lack of
integrity of those with whom it disagrees.
- Bovard, J. Booze Busting: the New Prohibition. The Future
of Freedom Foundation, December, 1998. (Available at www.fff.org/freedom/1298.asp)
- Brignell, J. Sorry, Wrong Number!: The Abuse of Measurement.
London, England: Brignell Associates, 2000.
- Candy Lightner: a grieving mother helped America get MADD. People
Weekly, 1999 (March 15), 110.
- Carnell, B. Should Christina Hoff Sommers "Shut the F_ _ _
_ Up"?, www.equityfeminism.com
- Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Radio Daze: Alcohol
Ads Tune In Underage Youth. Washington, DC: Center for Alcohol
Marketing and Youth, 2003.
- Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Television: Alcohol's
Vast Adland. Washington, DC: Center for Alcohol Marketing and
- Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Out of Control: Alcohol
Advertising Taking Aim at America's Youth. Washington, DC:
Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2002.
- Center for Consumer Freedom. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's
Neo-Prohibitionist Agenda, April, 2003 (www.consumerfreedom.com/print_page.cfm?&type=headline&id=1868)
- Cuomo to Sign Bill Barring Califano. New York Times, 1987
(April 11), 136, p. 9(N), p. 29(L), col. 2.
- Duplantier, F.R. A Bronx cheer for professional scolds: There's
nothing scientific about the Center for Science in the Public Interest,
nor does the Center have any interest in the interests of the public.
America's Future, April 15, 1998. (Available at www.americasfuture.net/1998/june98/98-0615a.html)
- Ending Taxpayer Subsidized Lobbying by Neo-Prohibitionists, www.nbwh.org/policy/tax_sub.html
- Fisher, J.C. Advertising, Alcohol Consumption and Abuse: A
Worldwide Survey. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 1993.
- Foster, R. G. Robert Wood Johnson: The Gentleman Rebel.
State College, PA: Lillian Press, 1999. Apparently an abstainer
who tried to impose his views on his employees, Robert Wood Johnson
created one of the world's richest and most powerful foundations.
As one observer noted, the "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
is not a respected non-profit; it is under the control of left wing
extremists who fund programs that further their social causes."
The foundation tries to impose its temperance views on the entire
American society, not just a few thousand employees. Robert Wood
Johnson would be pleased with his foundation's anti-alcohol funding.
- Friedrich, O. Candy Lightner. Time, 1985, 125, 41.
- Frantzich, S. E. Citizen Democracy: Political Activists in
a Cynical Age. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield,
1999. See section "From Grief to Action: Making One MADD --
- Fumento, M. Food fight. Forbes, November 11, 2002. (Available
at www.fumento.com/nutr/quorn.html) Is Michael Jacobson of the Center
for Science in the Public Interest dishonest or simply incompetent?
Or could Mr. Jacobson simply be incredibly careless with research
methods and data?
- Hasse, W. K. Rhetorical Strategies: A Critical Analysis of
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. (Ohio University, M.A. thesis,
1983). Mothers Against Drunk Drivers was the original name of Mothers
Against Drunk Driving.
- How Effective Are MADD's Efforts? USA Today, 1992, 120,
- Huff, D. How to Lie with Statistics. New York: Norton,
- Jacobsen, M., Hacker, G., and Atkins, R. The Booze Merchants:
The Inebriating of America. Washington, DC: Center for Science
in the Public Interest Books, 1983. This book is an excellent case
study of deception. It also documents that decades ago CSPI was
insisting that alcohol ads "target" young people. Although
the federal government has found no evidence to support that claim,
CSPI continues to make the assertion to this day. The temerance
organization seems to follow the nazi belief that if a falsehood
is repeated often enough, people will believe it. The Center for
Science in the Public Interest has often been referred to as the
"food police." It also appears to be the alcohol gestapo.
- Kinkade, P. T. The Unintended Consequences of California's
1982 Drunk Driving Laws: The Costs of Being "MADD."
(Irvine, CA: University of California, Ph.D. dissertation, 1990).
- Kurtz, S. Abolish CSAP!, wwwnationalreview.com
- Kurtz, S. Silencing Sommers, www.nationalreview.com
- Lightner, Candy. MADD. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Sound recording,
- Lightner, Candy and Hathaway, N. Giving Sorrow Words.
NY: Warner books, 1990.
- Lopez, F. MADD agenda goes mad with neo-prohibitionism. The
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 3-25-02.
- Milloy, S. College Drinking Study is Intoxicating Scam,
- Milloy, S. J. Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health
Scares and Scams. Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2001.
- Milloy, S. J. Science Without Sense: The Risky Business of
Public Health Research. Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 1995.
- Mindus, D. Behind the Neo-Prohibition Campaign: The Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation. Washington, DC: The Center for Consumer
Freedom, 2003 (http://www.consumerfreedom.com/report_rwjf.cfm)
- New York Seafood Council. Is Seafood the Leading Cause of Foodborne
Illness Outbreaks? (available at www.nyseafood.org/breakingnews_archive_1.asp)
Excellent example of apparently intentional deception by the Center
for Science in the Public Interest that may have the unintended
effect of harming public health.
- One woman can make a difference (Candy Lightner and Mothers Against
Drunk Driving or MADD) Vogue, 1986, 176, 170.
- Original thinkers: These five helped reshape the way we see our
world --and live and work in it. Life, 1989, 12(12),
167-171. (Includes Candy Lightner and her founding of MADD)
- Pena, C.V. The Anti-Drunk Driving Campaign: A Covert War Against
Mr. Pena is former Executive Director of the Mothers Against Drunk
Driving chapter of Northern Virginia.
- Reinarman, C. The drug policy debate in Europe: The case of Califano
vs. The Netherlands. International Journal of Drug Policy,
1997, 8(3). Available at http://www.cedro-uva.org/lib/reinarman.califano.html.
Dr. Reinarman contends that Califano "propagandizes" and
that his systematic distortions warrant careful analysis as a case
study of how misinformation fuels inappropriate public policy. Therefore,
he reveals some of the things that Califano neglects, misrepresents
and gets wrong in a single publication.
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Annual Report. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Combating Alcohol Abuse. Chapter
in: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To Improve Health and Health
Care. Vol. VI. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Advances Newsletter.
(quarterly) Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Free to Grow: Head Start Partnerships
for Substance-Free Communities. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation, 1998.
- Satel, S. the Sorry CSAP Flap: It's Worse Than It Looks, www.techcentralstation.com
- Sellinger, M. Already the conscience of a nation, Candy Lightner
prods Congress into action against drunk drivers. People Weekly,
1984, 22, 102+.
- Social Issues Research Centre. Of Public Interest? (Available
at www.sirc.org/articles/public_interest.shtml) The Center for Science
in the Public Interest warns of the health dangers of C-reactive
protein but conveniently chooses not to report that moderate drinkers
have only half the levels of the dangerous substance found in alcohol
abstainers. Presumably because of its anti-alcohol stance, CSPI
somehow feels justified in withholding this important health information
that might save people's lives. So much for the interest of the
- United States Congress. House Committee on Interstate and Foreign
Commerce. Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Contempt
Proceedings against Secretary of HEW, Joseph A. Califano, Jr. Washington:
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979.
- Wooster, M.M. Mothers Against Drunk Driving: Has its vision become
blurred? Alternatives in Philanthropy, 2000 (February)
- Wechsler, Henry, et al. Alcohol use and problems at colleges
banning alcohol: Results from a national survey. Journal of
Studies on Alcohol, 2001, 62(2), 133. NOTE: The term
binge is not used in this article because the most prestigious journal
in the field of alcohol research, The Journal of Studies on Alcohol,
only permits its use when referring to a true binge and never permits
its deceptive misuse.
- Wechsler, Henry, and Isaacs, N. "Binge" drinking at Massachusetts
colleges: Prevalence, drinking style, time trends, and associated
problems. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association,
1992, 267(21), 2929-2931. NOTE: Placing the term binge
in quotation marks reflects Henry Wechsler's recognition that he
was using the term in a non-standard, idiosyncratic manner in this
- Wechsler, Henry, and Kuo, M. College students define binge drinking
and estimate its prevalence: Results of a national survey. Journal
of American College Health, 2000, 49(2), 57. NOTE:
In this article Henry Wechsler incorrectly claimed that most students
underestimate the extent of heavy drinking, a fact which, if correct,
would invalidate a basis on which social norm marketing is based.
However, Henry Wechsler's assertion was discredited by a scholar
who demonstrated that the logic and methods used by Mr. Wechsler
were systematically erroneous and inappropriate. Actually, Henry
Wechsler's own data demonstrate that most students greatly overestimate
the extent of heavy drinking, a fact that clearly supports
social norms marketing! Visit Alcohol & Social Norms Marketing;
- Wechsler, Henry, and Wuethrich, B. Dying to Drink: Confronting
Binge Drinking on College Campuses. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale,
2002. This is not a scientific book but a "pop" book for
mass consumption. For example, in the first chapter alone, non-scientific
references outnumber peer-reviewed sources by about three to one.
Heavily anecdotal, the book is largely based on personal stories
and emotion rather than on facts and logic. Although not scientific,
Henry Wechsler's book is useful for mobilizing social activism.
- Wechsler, Henry, et al. Trends in college binge drinking
during a period of increased prevention efforts: Findings from 4
Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study surveys. --
1993-2001. Journal of American College Health, 2002, 50(5),
203-217. Wechsler and colleagues found that, in spite of increasing
sanctions for alcohol use, so-called binge drinking did not drop.
- Wechsler, Henry. Underage college students' drinking behavior,
access to alcohol, and the influence of deterrence policies: Findings
from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study.
Journal of American College Health, 2002, 50(5),
223-237. Mr. Wechsler urged increased efforts to control underage
student drinking through wider and stricter legislation.
- Wechsler, Henry. Drinking levels, alcohol problems, and secondhand
effects of substance-free college residences: Results of a notional
study. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association,
2001, 285(14), 1823 (abstract). Mr. Wechsler found no difference
in drinking involvement among students in alcohol-free residence
halls and those in unrestricted halls on college campuses.
- Wechsler, Henry, et al. Alcohol use and problems at colleges
banning alcohol: Results of a national survey. Journal of Studies
on Alcohol, 2001, 62(2), 133. Henry Wechsler and colleagues
reported that colleges with alcohol prohibition have students who
drink less than those who select to attend colleges without alcohol
- Wechsler, Henry. What colleges are doing about student binge drinking.
Journal of American College Health, 200, 48(5),
219. Mr. Wechsler reported variations in college and university
policies to reduce so-called binge drinking among college students.
- Wechsler, Henry., et al. College binge drinking in the
1990's. American Journal of College Health, 2000, 48(5),
199. Mr. Wechsler reported that so-called binge drinking was a continuing
problem among college and university students.
- Wechsler, Henry, et al. College alcohol use: A full or
empty glass? Journal of American College Health, 1999,
47(6), 247. Mr. Wechsler found that the average number
of alcoholic drinks consumed by American college and university
students was 1.5 drinks per week (not per day). Federal government
guidelines list two drinks per day (14 per week) as moderate consumption
for a man.
- Wechsler, Henry, et al. Binge drinking among college students:
A comparison of California with other states. Journal of American
College Health, 1997, 45(6), 273 Mr. Wechsler reported
less frequent so-called binge drinking among college and university
students in California. They suggested that the results might result
from the fact that their California samples of students was older
than the national sample.