Normalizing Alcohol (Should We Normalize Alcohol?)

Critics of alcohol advertising often argue that it’s normalizing alcohol drinking. So what’s wrong with normalizing drinking?

There’s nothing at all wrong with normalizing alcohol unless a person’s goal is eliminating drinking in favor of forced abstinence. The hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation would have opposed normalizing alcohol. The Prohibition Party (yes, it still exists) would oppose it. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) – it, too, still exists – would oppose it. And well-funded anti-alcohol activist groups are today loudly opposing the normalization of alcohol.

Normalizing alcohol is nothing more than recognizing the fact that most people drink alcohol. That they do so in moderation. And that such use is a natural and normal part of the lifestyle of millions of people. Normalizing alcohol is presenting it as acceptable if it isn’t abused.

The term is actually a poor one. That’s because normalizing alcohol doesn’t make something that’s unnatural into something that’s natural. It simply recognizes alcohol as normal and acceptable.

What’s the alternative to normalizing alcohol?

Temperance writers and prohibitionists have shown us the alternative to normalization. It’s to portray drinking as a

      • normalizing alcoholSign of weakness.
      • Threat to personal and family happiness.
      • Symptom of personal problems.
      • Behavior that’s undesirable.
      • Cause of crime.
      • Symptom of societal decline.
      • Dangerous threat to health.
      • Threat to morality.

Today’s Temperance Movement

normalizing alcoholAnti-alcohol writers today tend to “de-normalize” alcohol by equating use with misuse and associating such misuse with a wide variety of personal and social problems. They also widely de-normalize alcohol by attempting to stigmatize it by equating it with illegal drugs. And even by referring to drinkers as drug users.

In short, the effort is to make drinking unacceptable, to marginalize alcohol, and stigmatize those who consume it.

Normalization is desirable

However, groups that normalize drinking have fewer alcohol-related problems than those that “abnormalize” it. In some societies almost everyone drinks and they do so frequently, yet have few problems. Such groups include Italians, Jews, Greeks, Spaniards, and Portuguese. There are at least three keys to their success:

      1. They view alcohol itself as neutral. That is, it’s neither good nor bad.  What’s important is how it’s used.
      2. People can either abstain from alcohol or use it in moderation. But they can’t abuse alcohol for any reason at any time.
      3. Young people learn within the home that alcohol must never be abused.

All of these groups normalize alcohol and it greatly benefits them and their members.