Prohibition Era

We seem to be living in a prohibition era. A century or so ago, drugs like cannabis and opium and cocaine were perfectly legal. I’m not sure that there were any ‘illegal drugs’ at all. All that were left, more or less, once these drugs were banned, were tobacco and alcohol. And Prohibition in America in the 1920s very nearly saw alcohol added to the list. And now, and for the past 60 years, tobacco is being subjected to a rolling prohibition.

Apart from America, it’s surprising in how many places alcohol was banned:

  • 1907 to 1948 in Prince Edward Island, but for much shorter periods in other provinces in Canada.
  • 1914 to 1925 in Russia and the Soviet Union.
  • 1915 to 1922 in Iceland (though beer was still prohibited until 1989)
  • 1916 to 1927 in Norway (fortified wine and beer also prohibited from 1917 to 1923)
  • 1919 in Hungary
  • 1919 to 1932 in Finland
  • 1920 to 1933 in United States (and for a lot longer in several states)

I didn’t know that alcohol sales were banned in Russia in 1914.

Other warring countries (e.g. the UK, France, and Germany)) imposed certain restrictions on alcoholic beverages, but only Russia completely stopped the retail sale of vodka.

Funny that they had a revolution a couple of years later. I wonder if the alcohol ban had anything to do with it? Rather as I’ve been wondering if the recent upheaval in the Arab world has been in part a consequence of the introduction of smoking bans.

Now, of course, it’s tobacco that is in process of being slowly prohibited. It’s a creeping prohibition, which advances by one ban at a time. A little ban here, and a little ban there, and after a little while it’s impossible to smoke tobacco anywhere. Finland is currently planning to ban smoking completely.

Ilkka Oksala, state secretary in the health ministry, drew up the latest plans and his approach is uncompromising.

“The goal is to get rid of smoking once and for all. It is a long-term goal, but still we are going to achieve it.

There can’t be much doubt that where Finland leads, the rest of Europe will sooner or later follow. They wouldn’t want to be left behind.

And then, of course, they’ll be wanting to have another go at banning alcohol, after it didn’t work the first time. And work has already started.

Apart from the temporary defeats in respect of alcohol, it seems to have been very much a one-way process. Cannabis and opium and cocaine have been prohibited since the 1920s, and there’s almost zero chance of these prohibitions being lifted. Tobacco is now in process of being prohibited. And alcohol is being primed for the next huge offensive against it.

If you want to be regarded as ‘progressive’ these days, you go and ban something. That seems to be the hallmark of ‘progress’. And once you’ve banned opium and cannabis and cocaine and tobacco, you don’t stop there. You start banning sugar and salt and fat and meat. The culmination of this process can only be one in which everything has been banned. It’s not just that there won’t be any more alcohol and tobacco on sale anywhere, but there also won’t be any sugar or salt or meat or anything else.  There won’t be any cars or motorbikes either, of course.

The 1960s might very well be regarded as a time when a number of the banned drugs – most noticeably cannabis – began to re-introduce themselves into society, bucking the trend. The 1960s might be defined not so much as the era of bands like the Beatles, or of long hair, but rather as the era of cannabis. The use of cannabis in countries like the UK is now very widespread. My own guess would be that about half the people in the country have smoked it at one time or other. I’ve smoked it, and more or less everybody I know has smoked it – and carries on smoking it. However, despite its very wide social acceptance, cannabis remains a prohibited drug.

And the 1970s onwards might be regarded as a time when a whole new set of illegal drugs began to make their appearance. LSD, Ecstasy, etc, etc.  So it isn’t all entirely a one way street. For as soon as any drug is prohibited, a contraband trade in it commences. And not just that. New variants of the drugs, and entirely new drugs, begin to appear, usually far more potent than their predecessors. Instead of beer and wine, we now have whisky. Instead of opium, we have heroin. Instead of the coca leaf, we have powdered cocaine. Instead of cannabis, we have skunk. Soon, as e-cig technology develops, we’ll have super high strength nicotine. There are probably hundreds of chemists working on synthesizing it right now. It’s prohibition that drives this process, because in a prohibition era it’s necessary to minimize the amount of the illegal drug smuggled, by maximising its potency.

And bans are immensely socially divisive. I’ve now lived through two ‘prohibition eras’, and in both cases I’ve found myself belonging to a prohibited and separate subculture. For the 1960s drug subculture was a separate culture from the main culture of legally approved beer and cigarettes. Back in the 1960s you had to meet with trusted friends in secret to smoke the weed, and people were being fined and imprisoned left, right, and centre. A lot of people I know have been fined for possession of cannabis. Yet somehow or other, in the UK, after a few years of intensive police activity, the authorities decided to relax their attitude. After some 5 or 10 years of fighting the emerging new culture, the authorities decided to abandon the fight. For the time being, leastways.

What tobacco smokers are now experiencing is in many ways exactly the same as what cannabis smokers experienced in the 1960s. They’re becoming members of a prohibited, officially-disapproved subculture. They’re experiencing the same feelings of resentment and anger. They’re facing the same stone wall of officialdom, and the same media blackout. The principal difference is that the 1960s saw the arrival and renormalisation of a new drug (even if it had been around for several millennia), and the 2000s are seeing the departure and denormalisation of an old drug. It’s like a train station, where some people are getting on the train, and some are getting off, but apart from this one difference their experiences are all but identical.

My experience of the 1960s very much shaped who I thought I was for the next few decades. It really took about 30 years before I was more or less completely re-normalised and re-absorbed into the officially-approved main culture of beer and cigarettes. Only to find, ha ha, that it was just becoming an officially-disapproved culture. So I have a strong sense of deja vu about everything that is happening now. I’ve been through it before. And my attitude to tobacco is the mirror image of my attitude to cannabis 40 years ago.

One might almost say that the drugs you take serve to define who you are. If you drink traditional beer (and are a member of CAMRA), you belong to a different culture from people who drink lager or cider or wine or whisky. If you smoke Benson and Hedges or Marlboro, you belong to a different culture from people who smokes pipes or cigars or roll-ups. Same if you smoke joints or snort cocaine. Whatever you yourself do, you will regard that as ‘normal’, and will look down upon anyone who does anything different. In fact, you’ll very often be quite happy to see anything different prohibited. Beer drinkers don’t care if tobacco is banned. Tobacco smokers never worried about cannabis or opium smokers. And now cannabis smokers very often don’t give a damn about tobacco smokers.

All of which helps the prohibitionists. Divide and conquer is always their method. They could ban cannabis and opium when most people drank beer and smoked tobacco. Now that 25% or less of the population smoke tobacco, they can ban tobacco, safe in the knowledge that nobody else will object, and will more than likely thoroughly approve.

What’s been driving the prohibition craze of the past century? Lots of things. A puritan disapproval of pleasure of any sort. An eugenic programme of human biological improvement. The profits of pharmaceutical companies. The growing power of an expanding state. It’s probably been the chance confluence and alliance of a variety of quite separate interests that has given the prohibitionists their power.

But they do seem to love prohibiting things. There was a palpable sense of triumph among UK politicians at having banned smoking. A sort of glee.

But I’m not sure that it’s any different from the delight that a vandal gets from throwing a stone through someone else’s window.

About Frank Davis

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Prohibition Era

  1. Paul says:

    So which way do you think it’s going to go then? Apart from smoking, what about the other denormalisation – so that’s ‘obesity’/drinking/photography/fat/sugar/salt/meat et al? Will they all come down in one block or individually? Will things get much worse before they get better?

    I asked my Polish friend (who lived in Communist Poland) about the word ‘denormalisation’. He knew it very well indeed.

    • Marshall says:

      I don’t think it is going to go much farther. People only take so much and then rebel, with tie advent of the Tea Parties I believe we have reached that point. The Nanny Staters attempt to marginalize and de-normalize them but it is only making them stronger.

  2. Marshall says:

    In the US most of the drug laws were racially motivated.

    Not to mention until the expanse of government powers to non-elected bureaucracies it took a constitutional amendment to ban anything.

  3. Walt says:

    Don’t forget the importance of economics– of government and employer paid health care and insurance. As costs began to grow exponentially in the 80s, so did both the government’s and employers’ meddling in everyone’s personal lives, as they began to feel the pinch. The same era saw (perhaps not coincidentally) a sudden and lavish burst of “lifestyle epidemiology” — the invention, as it were, of villains like cholesterol (whose lethality is controversial, with the controversy suppressed)– as part of a frantic search for “reasons” and scapegoats for all of the ancient– and suddenly costly–ills.

    Your employer and the government now look at your diet, your smoking, your drinking, and God knows what else through the eyes of their accountants. And if banning your pleasures saves them so much as a hypothetical penny, the calculus favors it. And if all of their cockamamie theories are wrong (as a bunch of studies show) if your preferring steak to oat bran doesn’t save them a penny, let alone doesn’t save your life, well.. what the hell. It was still worth a shot.

    If anyone’s interested, Gary Taubes’ book “Good calories, bad calories” demonstrates the stunning parallel between how cholesterol and secondhand smoke were created and established as common knowledge.

  4. Tim says:

    In the US during alcohol prohibition, there was also a drive to start prohibition of tobacco and something like 16 US states made tobacco illegal, the same as with alcohol. Had the amendment not been overturned, then they’d have continued with prohibition of tobacco completely as it was already happening, the way alcohol banning is happening now that smoking has been banned, some thing only in reverse. Back then, I think prohibition leading up to the Great Depression, well they didn’t call it a “depression” only because of the economic effects, but of the psychological too. That song Happy Days Are Here Again probably had a double meaning to it when it came out.

    Oh, San Francisco is in Forbes Magazine’s Worst Performing City Economies List this year and of the top 15 worst performing city economies, 1/3 are all in California – SF, LA, Sacramento, others – all smoke-banned and damned proud of the destruction that followed it.

    Hey, that sounds familiar. 1920’s, alcohol prohibition, then tobacco prohibtion, then economic depression. The last 16 years in California, tobacco banning in the most extreme, now economic depression.

    Sounds like correlation, cause and effect to me. Someone should do a chart and send it to ASH.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Global warmist Mark Hertgaard of HOT was bragging that California had the 7th largest economy in the world, so it would seem that the other side don’t see any economic downside to what they’re doing.

      • Tim says:

        California’s economy is about to be hit with more problems soon as the newly elected totally liberal-progressives holding every position of authority in the state is to mandate it be overly-reliant on windmills for electricity at higher cost and with less of it to go around, rationing to be the result while businesses, jobs and residents continue fleeing to other states to escape the coming economic tsunami.

        The Golden State, with its plethora of bans, restrictions and unstoppable social engineering schemes combined with its unsustainable debt load is coming to a meltdown in due course.

        Of course they don’t see it that way, they see it instead as “progress”, getting rid of the poor and undesireables and having the whole state only for the wealthy few who engineered this scheme and will remain.

      • Frank Davis says:

        California’s giant sucking sound

        Posted on April 12, 2011 by Anthony Watts
        Time to leave California? Governor Moonbeam may be the best salesman Texas has. While there’s a state delegation in Texas (including former SFO mayor Gavin Newsom) trying to figure out why Texas is pulling business out of California (cue Ross Perot’s giant sucking sound) our governor turns up the volume.

        April 12, 2011 at 6:39 am
        Heard on the radio news this AM and looked it up.

        California governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign legislation today requiring energy firms in California to generate 33 per cent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, delivering one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the world.

      • Jax says:

        However, a “large” economy (i.e. a busy one, with lots of things happening), doesn’t necessarily mean a “profitable” one. In the same way that big companies may have their own scaled-down “large” economies (i.e. lots of transactions going on) but if that “economy” isn’t profitable they can, and often do, go spectacularly “bust.”

        It’s one of the clever verbal tricks that politicians use very often when they want to reassure people that everything is all hunky-dory (Gordon Brown used to use it all the time), because they know that most people will automatically think that a “large” economy must be making money. But it ain’t so. Like most things that politicians say, it’s not exactly a downright lie, but rather it’s a withholding of certain elements of the truth in order to allow the public to continue with conveniently erroneous assumptions

  5. Tim says:

    And SF was #6 on that list of worst performing city economies. Since they’re extreme to the max in smoking bans and Sovietization of anything they get their fingers into, which is everything, then I would imagine the smoke-bans had definitely something to do with it. Shuddered store-fronts still abound in many neighborhoods along with no outdoor smoking signs literally everywhere. It may be the whole city is just a facade for the elite and wealthy now who are all living on loads of debt well beyond what they can ever hope to pay back, since they’ve managed to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, destroyed individual drive, ingenuity and personal liberty, leaving no reward for the individual thinkers to want to bother making an investment of ideas or the working class an investment beyond just the necessary, since no rewards are forthcoming, everything banned, pleasure denied, then no point in growing a free economy in the land where smoke’s been banned.

  6. Walt says:

    Does this prove my point above? LA Times calls for taxing smokers and fat folx. Tho they seem to want to tax fat people instead of their food; but smokers, I guess, get taxed at both ends.,0,3157293.story

  7. Rog says:

    On Radio 4 early this morning a member of Lloyd’s shipping was being interviewed.
    They were with the Royal Navy on patrol off Somalia to see what was being done with the yearly 7.5 Billion loss of shipping or ransom due to piracy.
    Luckily a cry for help went up from a merchant ship concerned about a nearby boat.
    The navy went into action and Royal Marines boarded a dodgy craft were upon they discovered 9 AK47s and 2 boarding ladders.
    All 17 pirates were detained and taken aboard the RN ship and then it all goes terribly wrong.
    Because of grey ‘rules of engagement’ put onto the armed services by politicians they urgently sent off a message on what to do with them.
    These pirates were without doubt the baddest of the bad as on a directive from the UK Government they had their cigarettes taken off them and only allowed to have one smoke a day as they were duly transported back to Somalia given a medical check-up, food and released. One of them whom I suspect to be the leader was duly punished with a nicotine patch instead of a fag. What a bastard he must be.
    Lloyds shipping are today urging the Government to rewrite rules of engagement.

  8. DerekP says:

    “An eugenic programme of human biological improvement.”

    I think the State, in whatever country, wants us more amenable to control, so they might see that as biological (really, behavioral) ‘improvement’. The poor mathematic ability of most of the UK population is almost wholly due to the teaching of the State system. And, I think, in the UK approved ‘information’ and especially ‘conclusions’ are pumped out through the MSM, and in particular by the BBC, for passive acceptance.

    If you have to make a decision and you can’t objectively evaluate your choices (due to lack of information and/or lack of ability to evaluate) you’re left with trusting the ‘experts’, and if you start relying upon a voice of Authority you’re more likely to unthinkingly go along with Authority’s conclusions.

    Hence the UK politicians “sort of glee” at having banned smoking – they have a method which worked (so far) so the State can become ‘the new East Germany’ although, most being demonstrably thick despite being expensively educated, they haven’t thought through the consequences.

    Incidentally, I’m not a smoker but there are aspects of life I enjoy. I know when little bully-boy shits like these politicians and ‘do-gooders’ have had their power-buzz they just look for new victims, so I’d like to undercut them before they come for me and mine. I think a lot of non-smokers could go along with that in the same self-interested spirit they’re currently happy to have their pleasures ignored while smoking denormalisation is being pushed.

    Having relevant factual information, especially good summaries, pushed throughout the web helps in everyday conversation to counter the Authority fabrications – the on-line climate change discussions seem an example of good method. Is there any rational reason why smokers shouldn’t have smoking clubs? While smokers subsidise the NHS are they not entitled to good NHS treatment? If people are aware of any provable risks are they not entitled to make an informed choice, especially if they bear the cost of the risk?

    As well as information and reasoned argument on the particular subject, there needs to be more explicit detailed information on the particular individuals and lobby groups who appear to receive tax-payers’ money to dictate evidence-lacking policies needing even more public money. And we need to use the leverage of protest-voting. To any Americans reading, I’ll just say – don’t give up your guns – as even most politicians understand it’s near impossible to talk down to, or bully, people who’ve been ‘equalized’.

    Sorry for the long post.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Is there any rational reason why smokers shouldn’t have smoking clubs?

      No, there isn’t. No health and safety reason. There’s no justification for the ban on the grounds of the health of non-smokers.

      The real purpose of the ban is one of social engineering. It is to ‘help’ smokers give up smoking. Several of the antismokers (e.g. Baroness Elaine Murphy) have said as much.

      Given that this (and not any health threat from secondhand smoke) is the real purpose of the ban, it’s unlikely that there will be any exemption given for private clubs, because such clubs would defeat the (real) purpose of the ban.

    • Frank Davis says:

      And personally I think that smoking bans will only get repealed when non-smokers start objecting to them.

  9. Rose says:



    This has surfaced again in the light of Fukushima.

    A few very interesting comments and links.

  10. Jonathan Bagley says:

    Good post DerekP
    Your words,
    “Is there any rational reason why smokers shouldn’t have smoking clubs? While smokers subsidise the NHS are they not entitled to good NHS treatment? If people are aware of any provable risks are they not entitled to make an informed choice, especially if they bear the cost of the risk?”
    describe my views exactly. What sort of protest voting do you have in mind? My ideas of effective legal protest include boycotting blood and organ donation. The former would cause massive problems if done on a large scale. At one time I would have felt guilty about making such proposals; but once too often I’ve listened to to sanctimonious and ignorant medics tell me I’m costing the NHS money (which is not true – smokers tend to die cheaply and don’t spend so many years wetting the carpets in care homes) land shouldn’t benefit from this or that medical treatment. Well let’s see how they get on without the 49% of transplanted lungs donated my smokers; and presumably also 49% of hearts. And what if I need a blood transfusion? I’ll take my chances. Must be the risky behaviour gene; or perhaps not going out for three and a half years has sent me a little mad.

    • DerekP says:

      Jonathan Bagley,
      Thanks. If the topic arises I usually put some of those three questions to people who are in favour of the smoking ban and so far have not received a coherent reply that stands up to the counter comment – ‘Now instead of smoking put whatever activity you enjoy doing into the question and tell me how you would feel being treated like that.’

      I’m not saying that I’ve won an argument because the argument hasn’t even been explored; most seem to have a few standard phrases they trot out, mainly appeals to Authority or displaying outrage that their preferences should be compared to smoking.

      Having read J.C.’s link my thought of protest-voting to get our politicians to reconsider policies seems naive; politicians have been presented with facts contradicting policy but they frequently give stock responses designed to evade, confuse or prevaricate (or some combination).

      I think the quotes below, from that link, relate to both the examples above:
      “The important point to note here is that it is not education that is effecting such normative change; rather, it is socialization. Whereas education assumes calculating rationality—if you have the appropriate information you will become convinced that a certain course of action is to your benefit—socialization does not (small children are easily socialized, but not because they have been formally educated in social norms).”

      So, if I understand that link correctly, calculating rationality gives way to reinforced messages telling us what is ‘normal’ for our society as most people:
      “will shift their behaviors in the desired direction (desired by whom?)”.

      The final sentence in that linked document gives, I think, a possible reason for that sort of glee, as the smoking ban may have been a test of method for the behaviors shift required for successful implementation of CAGW related policies, which are likely to be extremely lucrative for some people.

      Smoking has somehow become a sin and it seems not being a true believer in CAGW will also be a sin.

      • Frank Davis says:

        I’ve come across the smoking-as-sin thing a couple of times recently.

        One pub smoker referred to the covered outside area as a ‘sin bin’.

        Another smoker in another pub referred to its equivalent area as the ‘naughty people’s corner’.

        As for J.C’s link, I have trouble with stuff like:

        The car is not simply a mode of transportation oreven a feature of lifestyle; it is better understood as Bourieuian “field” or a Foucauldian “dispotif”.

  11. Allo, allo... says:

    Re: SOTTT article, 100% in agreement. It would be also interesting to see if there is any data on corellation between worldwide rise in gasoline & diesel usage and rise in cancer rates?

    A lot of commenters on this very interesting blog talk about ‘rational reasons’ in regard to various aspects of smoking ban. May I suggest that more reserach is nedeed on ideological and religious factors influencing people behind the curtain. Those areas seem to be constantly overlooked when discusssing SB.

  12. Rose says:

    “It would be also interesting to see if there is any data on corellation between worldwide rise in gasoline & diesel usage and rise in cancer rates?”

    Tip of the iceberg.

    “AT ONE EXTREME were the people–mainly British–who pushed their way to open microphones’to say “I won’t let them poison my air,” and “If we’d been intended to smoke, we’d, have been given little chimneys.”

    “A fundamental principle” of ACS, said the Society'”s public information vice president, Irving Rimer, has always been that “smokers are people and most of them are very nice people and very responsible people”

    His comments, at the close of a session on `Control of Smoking at Places of Work, met little enthusiasm from an audience who two days before had tried to boo and clap down a physician who disagreed with the Royal College of Physicians report on smoking.

    He was trying to read an unscheduled paper on “‘The Cigarette — Enemy or Red Herring?” and it became obvious that he felt cigarettes were being used as a scapegoat for alleged dangers of diesel engine fumes.”

    the Cigarette – Enemy or Red Herring?

    Dr Kitty Little

    “One would have expected the results of such definitive experiments to have been published by 1957 or 1958, or by 1960 at the very latest.

    Instead, publication of papers on the subject suddenly ceased; funds for research on the effects of diesel smoke were withdrawn; lawyers issued instructions on how to confuse a court should an action for damages be initiated; and articles on diesel fuel tended to have the unsupported statement “diesel smoke is harmless” as a frequent non sequitor.

    If it had not been for this cut off of information, together with the brainwashing techniques of the anti-smoking campaign, all lung cancer of the type under discussion could have been eliminated by now.

    The cut off of information about the carcinogenic action of diesel smoke seems to have coincided with the availability of final proof that smoking was not, and could not be, responsible for the rise in lung cancer; with an acceleration of the campaign to make industrial nations more dependant on oil as a source of energy; and with the EEC decision to rely primarily on road transport for the carriage of industrial products.”;jsessionid=1A622975CD35D2F66C01526368B52B33?tid=yth67a99&page=17

    Fear of political embarrassment led to government cover up of link between air pollution and lung cancer

    “Smog Conference: Leading historian documents how shift in public health agenda and political necessity combined to keep air pollution off the agenda.

    Delegates attending an international conference in London today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Great London Smog of 1952, which caused an estimated 12,000 deaths, will hear how governments from the late 50s onwards deliberately downplayed the huge threat to public health caused by air pollution, and sought to shift the blame firmly onto cigarette smoking instead.”

  13. Jackie says:

    Frank said, “Soon, as e-cig technology develops, we’ll have super high strength nicotine. There are probably hundreds of chemists working on synthesizing it right now.”

    Already available, Frank. Many vendors sell 100mg (10%) nicotine that vapers use to mix their own e-liquid. Most mix it down to around 2.4%. Very cost effective. Also, my understanding is that synthetic nicotine is available, but way too expensive to make for any commercial benefit.

  14. Pingback: The Governmentalization of Lifestyle | Frank Davis

  15. Pingback: nuclear war 2011 - bbc television, soviet union, mick jackson

  16. My grand father always used to watch YouTube funny video tutorials, hehehehehe, because he wants to be glad forever.

No need to log in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.