Despite Prohibition passing more than 100 years ago and ending in 1933, people still want to ban alcohol consumption.
Last month’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study has led to a flurry of headlines alarming the public that moderate drinking isn’t safe, using statistics gathered from problem drinkers. The study found that nearly 1 million people died from alcohol-related causes between 1999 and 2017. But the majority of these deaths, especially cirrhosis, were related to heavy drinking or drinking-related accidents.
Nonetheless, the moderate drinker is under attack by those seeking to put an end to consumption.
Only this era’s temperance advocate is not a religious zealot destroying saloons or screaming “whiskey is the devil” outside of town halls. Rather, policy-minded health advocates lead the contemporary dry movement, releasing studies that offer shocking and often misleading headlines such as “No Alcohol is Good for You” and “One Drink a Day Can Shorten Your Life.”
Today’s dry uses celebrities and guilt-laden social media to lump responsible moderate drinking with drinking-straight-from-the-keg binge drinking.
This threatens decades of sound science from the likes of the American Heart Association Journal Circulation, which found moderate drinking was one of five low-risk lifestyle choices that could lead to a longer life, and UC Irvine Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders’ findings that consuming about two glasses of beer or wine daily was associated with 18% reduced risk of premature death.
In fact, the medical community generally accepts moderate drinking. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate drinking may reduce heart disease, ischemic stroke and diabetes. Even President Obama’s 2016 Surgeon General condoned the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines on moderate drinking-which is up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men-writing, “moderate alcohol use can be part of a healthy diet, but only when used by adults of legal drinking age.” By contrast, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines heavy drinking as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on each of five or more days in the past 30 days.
To be clear, nobody wants to see a nation of heavy drinkers or binge drinkers, as this certainly damages the physical and mental health. But many credible studies, scientists and doctors believe society is best served by practicing moderate drinking over abstinence. We must draw a clear line on this: One drink a day is not the same as downing a fifth of vodka in a parking lot, and some people should never drink including underage and pregnant women, among others.
But the war on moderate drinking doesn’t see it this way. Just as they did before Prohibition, the modern dry hopes to drive a wedge between you and your favorite drink through government intervention.
And in some cases, governments are not even giving the alcohol industry a seat at the table. In an upcoming Global Alcohol Policy Alliance (GAPA) in Dublin, which includes government ministries and agencies, drinks representatives are barred from attending even though the event focuses on alcohol promotions, among other things. This reflects how that organization feels about the alcohol industry: They’re willing to make policy impacting them without even giving them an opportunity to speak and be heard. That is neither healthy for the organization nor a free country. And these dogmatic attitudes are no longer confined to Europe and other parts of the world.
We are seeing American politicians make their share of bans, too.
Last year, New York banned alcohol advertising on most city properties even though it cost them $3-million in revenue. “There’s no doubt that far too many New Yorkers struggle with serious substance misuse issues, among them excessive drinking,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement then.
In doing this, ignoring New York underage drinking was down 35% the past decade, de Blasio goes backwards for his city, as Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, Washington DC and Boston reversed similar bans. But hey, it’s a big headline, and that’s what a lot of these efforts seem to be designed to garner-attention. After all, Big Tobacco is largely dead. Let’s attack the next best sin-booze.
Unfortunately, those who attack the alcohol industry with their fear-mongering tactics forget that this industry banded together during Prohibition; have self-policed its advertising practices since the 1930s; survived nearly a dozen federal advertising bans; regularly penalize its own kind for breaking industry rules; and consistently advocated for consumers to drink responsibly. These efforts are not just lip service; it’s a credo.
The correct way to police problem drinking is for this society to stop painting a glass of bourbon or beer as the devil or an instantaneous cancer-forming cell, and to teach people how to drink moderately. Banning alcohol failed. Banning advertising doesn’t work. And promoting heavy drinking studies as fact for all is dangerous to a society that rebells when its pleasures are taken away. Modern drys do not advocate for people consuming alcohol responsibly and do not believe Americans have the will power to drink moderately.
The fact is, nobody wants binge drinking, underage drinking or pregnant women kicking back shots. But instead of teaching people how to be responsible or the principles of moderate drinking, agenda-driven minded researchers are using a selection bias study approach to promote their agenda that there’s no safe level of alcohol.
We must not allow our society to lump responsible Americans, drinking one or two drinks a day, in with those who are problem drinkers. And while I absolutely want those with problems to seek the help they need for a sober lifestyle, we cannot fall into the same trap as our ancestors did and legislate / promote a no-drinking lifestyle based on somebody else’s heavy consumption.
As they say, learn from your past. Also, history repeats itself.
If we’re not careful, the latter will prevail, and we will see a Prohibition nation punished for the actions of a few.