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Journal Article

Citation

Pauly PJ. Am. J. Public Health 1994; 84(2): 305-313.

Affiliation

Department of History, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903.

Copyright

(Copyright © 1994, American Public Health Association)

DOI

unavailable

PMID

8296962

PMCID

PMC1614990

Abstract

The reliance of current advocates of recreational drug legalization on parallels between "drug prohibition" and the repudiated experiment of National Prohibition in the 1920s invites renewed attention to the history of the legalization and normalization of drinking. A new scientific conception of the nature and effects of alcohol formed an important element in both the politics of repeal and the ensuing legitimation of alcohol consumption. The industrial toxicologist Yandell Henderson argued that alcohol should be considered analogous to carbon monoxide--clearly a poison, yet a normal part of civilized life and only problematic above a determinable and manageable exposure threshold. This argument had political force in the early 1930s as part of the contention that beer was not an "intoxicating liquor." It was more broadly persuasive because it was consistent with Americans' experience with industrial poisons, for which exposure levels had been set by toxicologists such as Henderson. This historical perspective illuminates the more recent reassessment of the risks of alcohol consumption. It also challenges the applicability of the model of the normalization of drinking to proposals to legalize cocaine and opiates.


Language: en

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