Neo-Prohibitionism and Neo-Prohibitionists

Neo-prohibitionism (also spelled neoprohibitionism and neo-Prohibitionism) is the belief that the per capita consumption of alcoholic beverages should be reduced by legislation that further restricts its sale and consumption and also by changing social norms to reduce the acceptability of drinking.

Neo-prohibitionists tend to assume that

These beliefs lead to the call for such measures as:

Neo-Prohibitionists tend to place primary responsibility on the cultural environment rather than the drinker for alcohol abuse. The analogy is that we don't blame fish for dying in a polluted stream. The belief that the environment is polluted with ads for alcohol, positive attitudes toward alcohol, the availability of alcohol, and the social acceptability of drinking.

An example is the assertion of Joseph Califano, head of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, that "The mother of abuse is availability." That view is consistent with temperance beliefs over 100 years ago. For example, a rural coroner in Indiana, in rendering an official cause of death of a man killed by a train in the 1890s recorded that if the man "had not been drunk, he would not have been killed," and that "if there had been no saloons to tempt him, he would not have been drunk." His official conclusion was that in the matter of the man's death, the voters of the state and the state legislature were equally guilty. 1

Because prohibition in the United States and elsewhere has been a dramatically unsuccessful experiment in the past and is unpopular today, there are no major organizations in the United States that claim to be neo-prohibitionist. However, Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), eventually left the organization and since has gone on to criticize it as neo-prohibitionist, stating that MADD "has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned … I didn't start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving." 2 Similarly, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is often described as neo-prohibitionist. 3

The concept and promotion of neo-prohibitionism has been studied by scholars at George Mason University, 4 Auburn University, 5 Ohio State University, 6 Brown University, 7 Indiana University, 8 the University of Houston, 9 the University of Western Ontario, 10 the State University of New York at Potsdam, 11 the University of California at San Diego, 12 Washington University, 13 the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, 14 Kean College 15 and others, although it is usually used by critics (who may or may not be academics) to describe groups or individuals.

The neo-prohibitionist perspective has wide support in many countries around the world although much scientific research evidence is inconsistent with its assumptions and recommendations.


  • 1. Clark, Norman H.  Deliver Us from Evil: an Interpretation of American Prohibition. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1976, p. 79.
  • 2. Bresnahan, S. (2002). "MADD struggles to remain relevant." Washington Times, August 6.
  • 3. American Beverage Institute
    newsDetail.cfm?nid=81&CFID=22484403&CFTOKEN=15449402 and The Center for Consumer Freedom
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6. Pennock, Pamela E. and Kerr, K. Austin. “In the Shadow of Prohibition: American
    Domestic Alcohol Policy Since 1933,” Business History 47 (July 2005): 383-400.
  • 7. Heath, Dwight, B. The new temperance movement: Through the looking glass. Drugs and Society, 1989, 3, 143-168, and],   
  • 8.
    prohibition&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=2] and[
  • 9. Lender, Mark E. and Martin, James K. Drinking in America: A History. NY: Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan, 1987.
  • 10. Blocker, Jack S. Alcohol, Reform and Society. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979.
  • 11.
  • 12. Gusfield, Joseph R. Alcohol Problems—An Interactionist View. In: von Wartburg, Jean- Pierre, Magnenat, Pierre, Muller, Richard, and Wyss, Sonja (eds.) Currents in Alcohol Research and the Prevention of Alcohol Problems—Proceedings of an International Symposium Held in Lausanne, Switzerland, November 7-9, 1983. Berne, Switzerland: Hans Huber Publishers, 1985. pp. 71-81; Gusfield, Joseph R., Contested Meanings: The Construction of Alcohol Problems, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.
  • 13. Pittman, David J., "The New Temperance Movement," pp. 775-790 in David J. Pittman and Helene Raskin White (eds.), Society, Culture, and Drinking Patterns Reexamined, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, 1992.
  • 14. Beauchamp, Dan E. Alcohol-Abuse Prevention Through Beverage and Environmental Regulation: Where We Have Been and Where We Are Going. In: Holder, Harold D, (ed.) Advances in Substance Abuse: Behavioral and Biological Research Supplement 1, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1987. pp. 53-63.
  • 15. Lender, Mark E. and Martin, James K. Drinking in America: A History. NY: Free Press and London: Collier Macmillan, 1987.


  • Neo-Prohibitionism on the Rise in France. January 15, 2008.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism. A Dash of Bitters, Michael Dietsch. December 5, 2007
  • Neo-Prohibitionism. Legacy of Prohibition.
  • If It Feels Good, suppress It: On Neo-Prohibitionism.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism Comes to North Dakota.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism Update. May 15, 2005.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism in the U.K.
  • Is there a Neo-Prohibitionism Afoot? Ed Driscoll. December 31, 2002.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism.
  • More Nutty Neo-Prohibitionism.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism in Two Small Alabama Towns. /
  • Blogs about Neo-Prohibitionism.
  • Are Stricter Laws on Drunk Driving Life Savers or "Neo-Prohibitionism"?
  • Microbrewers Tackle Neo-Prohibitionism in Denver.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism, Alcohol Taxes, and Central Planning in California, John R. Graham. August 12, 2008.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism Sucks.
  • Neo-Prohibitionism in the "burg"? Brent Finnegan.
  • Word of the Day: Neo-Prohibitionism.
  • When Drunk Driving Deterrence becomes Neo-Prohibition. Radley Balco. Fox News.,2933,171383,00.html
  • A Political History of Neo-Prohibitionism. Jacob Sullum.
  • Winemaker Fights Neo-Prohibitionism. Dan Berger. Chicago Sun-Times, October 27, 1988.

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