Prohibition supported by almost one in five adults… today? No legal beer, wine or spirits? Yes, tens of millions of people in the U.S. favor Prohibition even today.
- Prohibition Support
- National Prohibition
- A Better Way
I. Prohibition Supported
A CNN nation-wide poll of US adults found that 18% believed drinking should be illegal.(1) It’s been over 80 years since Prohibition was repealed. Prohibition was a complete failure. It also created many new problems. Yet almost one of every five adults in the US believes that drinking alcohol should be criminalized. One percent had no opinion on whether or not it should be illegal to have a drink.
II. National Prohibition
Even under National Prohibition (1920-1933), drinking alcohol was perfectly legal. Prohibition criminalized the manufacture, transportation, importation, exportation, and sale of alcohol. There were also exceptions for religious, medicinal and scientific purposes. Those who had stockpiled alcoholic beverages could legally consume them. And although Prohibition banned the sale of alcohol, it did not prohibit its purchase.
So not even National Prohibition criminalized drinking. But millions and millions favor doing so now.
It’s not surprising that there is such strong anti-alcohol sentiment in the U.S. Not only are there many millions who support Prohibition. But there are many, many more who support neo-prohibition.
Neo-prohibitionism seeks to stigmatize alcohol and marginalize those who drink it. It also seeks to ‘denormalize’ alcohol and reduce its availability.
Neo-Prohibitionists tend to place primary responsibility for alcohol abuse on government and the environment. Not on the drinker. The belief is that government is causing people to abuse alcohol. It does so by permitting such things as ads for drinking, the social acceptability of drinking, and the availability of alcohol itself.
Reducing the availability of alcohol is central to neo-prohibitionism. Joseph Califano of the neo-prohibitionist Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse summarized that belief. He said “The mother of abuse is availability.” Hence, anything that makes it harder to buy alcohol is seen as good.
To reduce availability, neo-prohibitionists call for many things.
- Increasing the taxes on all alcohol beverages.
- Limiting or reducing the number of sales outlets.
- Limiting the alcohol content (proof) of drinks.
- Prohibiting or censoring alcohol advertising.
- Requiring strong warning messages with all alcohol advertisements.
- Expanding the warning labels on all alcohol beverage containers.
- Expanding the display of warning signs were alcohol is sold.
- Limiting the days or hours when alcohol can be sold or served.
- Increasing the legal liability of servers for any problems that occur after a person consumes alcohol. This includes social hosts.
- Lowering the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level for driving vehicles or other activities.
- Eliminating the tax deductibility of alcohol beverages as a business expense.
- Raising the prices of alcoholic beverages.
IV. A Better Way
Important for both alcohol policy and alcohol education is a basic fact. In many groups and societies most people drink. And they typically do so daily. But they have few alcohol problems. Such groups include Jews, Italians, Greeks, Spaniards, and Portuguese. There are three major keys to the success of such groups.
- They view alcohol as a neutral substance. It is neither a poison nor a magic potion. What is important is how alcohol is used. That’s what makes it is good or bad.
- People have two options. They are equally acceptable morally and socially. One is to abstain from alcohol. The other is to use alcohol in moderation. Totally unacceptable is the misuse of alcohol. That’s by anyone, anytime, for any reason.
- People learn to drink sensibly from an early age in the home. They learn appropriate drinking behavior from their parents. If they over-drink, they do so in the safety of the home. Parents guide them to correct behavior. They don’t learn to drink at university, in a fraternity house, in the military, or other environments.
Alcohol policies and alcohol education are not likely to be successful if they do the following.
- Fail to distinguish the use of alcohol from the abuse of alcohol.
- Stigmatize alcohol as a poison.
- Stigmatize those who drink in moderation.
- Accept intoxication as an excuse for bad behavior.
- Try to prevent young people from having any amount of alcohol under any circumstance.
This is neo-prohibitionism.
V. Resources: Prohibition supported
Learn about Prohibition’s successes and failures.
- CNN/ORC Poll. (Alcohol prohibition) Jan 7, 2014. http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2014/images/01/07/cnn.orc.poll.marijuana.1-7.pdf
- Asbury, H. The Great Illusion. NY: Greenwood, 1968.
- Kobler, J. Ardent Spirits. NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973.
- Krout, J. The Origins of Prohibition. New York: Knopf, 1925.
- Lerner, M. A. Dry Manhattan. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U Press, 2007.
- Sinclair, A. Prohibition. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co., 1962.