Letter to the Editor: Prohibition destroys moderation

Sociologist David Hanson at SUNY-Potsdam has been researching alcohol for over three decades. His book Preventing Alcohol Abuse examined drinking around the world, and found that societies view alcohol in one of two ways: The socio-cultural model of alcohol accepts that most people will drink – and drink responsibly. Societies create strong moral standards for what’s considered appropriate and inappropriate drinking, and parents essentially teach their children how to drink responsibly. The end result: Less alcoholism, and less binge drinking.

Neo-Prohibitionists on the other hand (including most “vote no” supporters) view alcohol itself as inherently evil. Rather than teach responsible drinking, they try to limit people’s consumption of alcohol – by banning it.

The problem is Neo-Prohibition, just like prohibition in the 1930s, fails miserably. Why? Because as Hanson puts it, “prohibition destroys moderation.”

People living in dry areas still buy booze – only they get it from neighboring towns and bootleggers. According to Hanson, banning alcohol causes people to buy more alcohol at once, consume more of it, and consume it without having ever been taught how to moderate their drinking. World Health Organization data shows this same trend in some Islamic and many African countries, where alcohol is also frowned upon. Fewer people might drink, but those who do, binge heavily.

This is a shame. Numerous journal articles, as well as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have all shown that moderate drinking has numerous health benefits. In fact, University of London researchers have demonstrated that moderate drinking saves more lives in England than are lost by alcoholism. Why? Because 1-2 drinks per day increases longevity, and causes a 40-60% drop in heart disease. Is not coincidental that the bible mentions alcohol as a medicine 191 times.

Meanwhile, banning alcohol not only deprives responsible drinkers of alcohol’s health benefits, but also puts millions of dollars into bootleggers’ pockets, who typically sell far more than alcohol. This explains an August 2015 article written by University of Louisville professors Fernandez, Gohmann, and Pinkston, who found that dry Kentucky counties have more meth labs and meth busts. With moderation off the menu, responsible drinking goes down, binging to drown one’s sorrows goes up, and if an area bans alcohol, people simply substitute other drugs that are easier to get.

Demonizing alcohol fails. Promoting moderation actually works. On December 29th, vote yes for a more intelligent alcohol policy.

John Phoenix