Government has long promoted the belief that alcohol, even in moderation, is harmful. It has also censored evidence to the contrary. The attitude seems to be simple. That is, “If you can’t say something bad about alcohol, don’t say anything.”
Pressure from anti-alcohol groups has supported this view. It still does. Such groups include the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Center for Science and the Public Interest, Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Justice, and many more.
Temperance Never Died
And temperance support remains strong even now. Almost one of every U.S. adults today supports making consuming alcohol illegal. Not even National Prohibition did that. Actually, millions of people legally drank during Prohibition. Discover more at What Did Prohibition Prohibit? It Wasn’t Drinking Alcohol.
For example, back in 1938, the Virginia legislature wanted the state’s public schools to teach that alcohol is a poison. So it asked two University of Virginia pharmacology professors to review the research evidence. Then they were to write a report on alcohol’s affects on the human body.
However, news leaked out that the “report contained language to the effect that moderate drinking was unharmful.”1 As a result, the legislature then voted to have the report, all one-thousand copies, burned — unread!
Legislature “Protected” Public
The legislature “protected” the public from positive news about alcohol. Even by 1938 there was much evidence that moderate drinking is associated with better health and longevity than is abstention. Such medical evidence had been accumulating since the beginning of the century. In fact, over ten years earlier a major scientific study showed that moderate drinkers lived longer than abstainers.2
The National Institutes of Health much later funded a study that found moderate drinkers to be less likely to suffer heart disease. However, refused to allow the Harvard researchers to publish the results. That’s because it considered them “socially undesirable.”3
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is the leading supporter of U.S. alcohol research. It enjoys a huge budget by any standard. But it never granted any funds to study the health effects of moderate drinking. Apparently, the agency expected that the results would be positive, so it resisted. It finally took Congressional action to force the NIAAA to grant such funding.
Even today, the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau refuses to let alcohol producers distribute scientific medical information on health benefits associated with the moderate consumption of alcohol. It prohibits them from distributing copies of the original studies, summaries of those studies, or even to make any reference to them. They can’t even say “Discuss the health consequences of drinking with your physician”! 4
Such “protective” paternalism was undesirable in 1938 and it’s undesirable now.