Neo-Prohibitionists in the U.S.: Learn Their Goals & Methods

Neo-prohibitionists aren’t new and and they’re all around us. In fact, almost one in five American adults today favors outlawing drinking. That is, they’re not neo-prohibitionists but prohibitionists!

neo-prohibitionistsNot even National Prohibition outlawed drinking. For example, it generally prohibited making, transporting, and selling beverage alcohol. But it didn’t prohibit either buying or drinking it. Indeed, many people stockpiled alcohol just before Prohibition went into effect. Learn more at What did Prohibition Prohibit?

The following article is by Corbin Keech and Charles Fairchild. In it, they also point out surprising facts about neo-prohibitionists.



The Movement

1. There is a large neo-prohibition movement underway. This anti-alcohol campaign is extremely well bankrolled. For example, within about five years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation alone spent more than $265 million.

It was spent to increase taxation, form negative attitudes, and achieve more restrictions on alcohol. The movement is tightly organized and self-righteous. It also and has sympathetic ears in the media. It’s a combination of private and public advocacy organizations, special interest groups, and governmental agencies. They push an anti-alcohol agenda on law-makers and officials.

2. Neo-prohibitionists target the entire alcohol industry, not just producers. Restaurants, bars, and social drinker are also targets. The result is a multi-pronged offensive. It’s about how adult beverages are perceived, distributed, sold and consumed. This assault is designed not only to address product abuse. It’s simply to force everyone to drink less or not at all.


3. Prohibition was an acknowledged failure. Therefore, neo-prohibitionists seek to characterize alcohol as an illicit drug. That is, culturally unacceptable. This notion of zero tolerance is precisely the environment in which young adults currently live.

4. Many articles claim there’s an increase in alcohol abuse, alcohol-related deaths, and alcohol caused traffic deaths. These are generally misleading and deceptive at best. These claims tend to reflect the views of the neo-prohibitionist movement. They’re also based on selective statistics

5. Studies funded by the federal government report that most young people and adults drink very little or not at all. Alcohol is not an important part of life for most Americans. The American Medical Association (AMA) is a staunch critic of the alcohol industry. Yet even it concurs that the vast majority of adults drink alcohol responsibly.

6. Among 18 to 22 year old full time undergraduates, 87% drink moderately, minimally, or abstain. Studies debunk the claims that drinking by young people results in widespread crime problems. That’s greatly over-blown by neo-prohibitionists. In fact, drinking has greatly and steadily declined in the 18 to 25 age group since 1980. And the same is true for alcohol related traffic deaths. Studies show that youth drink less and commit less crime. The vast majority are in control of their drinking.


7. The claims that collegians are widely engaging in binge drinking are false. Binge drinking is clinically and commonly viewed as a period of extended intoxication lasting several days.  During that time, the binger drops out of usual life activities. However, in the 1990s, alcohol activist Henry Wechsler received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This enabled him to conduct studies of college drinking. In doing so, he created a whole new definition for binge drinking. Wechsler’s study defined “binge drinking” as a male student who had five or more drinks. Or a female student who had four or more drinks on an occasion.

Wechsler also failed to specify a time period over which the purported binge drinking occurs. Also, Henry Wechsler then subdivided binge drinking into “frequent binge drinkers” and “occasional binge drinkers.”  He did this in order to claim a collegiate binge drinking rate of 44%. The real data simply do not support these conclusions.

8. The anti-alcohol campaign is creating a purported societal problem. Collegiate alcohol abuse is not new. It’s been on campuses since the first colleges began. In addition, the problem is not growing but declining. But Henry Wechsler and many others are receiving millions in grant monies to argue otherwise. So their studies result in conclusions favorable to neo-prohibitionism.

Social Norms Approach

9. The most effective way to reduce youthful alcohol abuse is called the social norms approach. The social norms approach corrects the common misperception that most students drink frequently and heavily. The approach gives students accurate information about students on their campus. They learn that most drink moderately or not at all. Then students behave accordingly. The resulting peer pressure becomes one of restraint rather than encouragement. More colleges need to use the social norms approach.

An Insult

10. The issue of alcohol abuse and claims of binge drinking is an insult to adults age 18 to 20. They have the right to do these things.

    • Vote
    • Fight in the military.
    • Hold elected office.
    • Pay taxes.
    • Serve on a jury.
    • Convict others of crimes.
    • Enter into contracts.
    • Own property.
    • Own a business.
    • Hire and fire employees.
    • Sue others.
    • Enter into marriage.
    • Adopt children.
    • Have abortions.
    • Consent to sexual intercourse.
    • Buy pornography.
    • Perform in pornography.
    • Buy, own, and use firearms.
    • Obtain credit.
    • Assume debt
    • Play the lottery.
    • Drive a vehicle.
    • Fly a plane.
    • Buy and smoke cigarettes.

Adults 18-20 can also be sued, can be convicted, and can be punished for any crime. But as to alcohol, they’re irresponsible children.


neo-prohibitionistsReprinted by permission and adapted from Keech, C., and Fairchild, C. Dude, What are My Rights? The Self-Help Legal Survival Guide for Ages 18-25. This user-friendly book provides practical legal advice on a wide variety of issues. Neither this website nor your host receives any benefit from its sale.