Prohibition starts: Jan. 16, 1920
The long crusade against drinking in America hits its high water mark as the 18th Amendment banning the sale and manufacture of alcohol goes into effect. It had been ratified a year earlier, but the fight against booze actually had been going on a long time. Almost 70 years earlier, the state of Maine passed a law prohibiting alcohol sales and by the time the new amendment kicks in, 33 of the 48 states are already dry.
But when Prohibition becomes federal law, it’s the only time—other than the amendment banning slavery—when the U.S. Constitution is changed to affect the actions of citizens rather than the government. It also marks the ultimate success of the first real single-issue pressure group in American politics—the Anti-Saloon League (ASL)—which was founded in Ohio in 1893 and had spent the past 25 years working against politicians who opposed Prohibition.
The ASL had also turned drinking into a public health issue, not just a moral one, claiming that alcohol killed 50,000 people a year and that it had such a powerful effect that just one taste could ruin a person for life. It likewise managed to tap into the deeper social attitudes about drinking at the time—its association in the minds of many rural Protestant churchgoers with Catholic and Jewish immigrants living in cities, the belief that saloons were corrupting too many men and causing harm—economic and otherwise—to their families. That’s a big reason Prohibition became tied so closely with women’s suffrage—its supporters believed that giving women the right to vote would ensure its passage.
Antipathy toward drinkers reached the point that at the International Congress Against Alcoholism in 1920, two doctors actually proposed rounding them up, putting them in camps and sterilizing them. The Ku Klux Klan was a big supporter of Prohibition, too, believing that it was key to controlling blacks in the South.
Before long, however, it became apparent that Prohibition didn’t really stop drinking—and that it brought other problems. Organized crime groups that had largely made their money in gambling and theft quickly realized that bringing in bootleg whiskey from Canada or running rum from Jamaica was a very lucrative business. Gangsters like Al Capone used Prohibition to become enormously rich and powerful.
Plus, the law was expensive to enforce and a lot of police departments, particularly in large cities, didn’t try that hard to do so. By one estimate, there were almost 100,000 “illegal” speakeasies in New York alone. And, if anything, it created more whiskey and gin drinkers—since it was much harder to get beer, people turned to hard liquor when they wanted to drink…
It also became clear that Prohibition did not bring the economic boom that its supporters had predicted. The thinking was that people would spend the money they spent on alcohol to instead buy other things, and that would spur manufacturing growth. That never happened. And once Wall Street crashed in 1929 and the country spun into the Great Depression, state and local governments saw liquor taxes as a way to generate badly needed revenue.
When Franklin Roosevelt won his first presidential campaign in a landslide in 1932, one of the planks of his platform was to repeal Prohibition. Within a few months, in April, 1933, he signed legislation making 3.2 beer legal, That night breweries in St. Louis and Milwaukee began shipping out millions of bottles of beer.
Later that year, on December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified and for the first and only time, an amendment to the Constitution was repealed.
More slices of history
Blood test may help people quit smoking
Taking a blood test may help smokers choose the best strategy for quitting and improve their chances of success, according to a new study at the University of Pennsylvania.
Previous research has suggested that the varying rates at which people break down nicotine may affect chances of quitting smoking. In the new study, scientists first focused on the link between nicotine breakdown rate and the effectiveness of nicotine patches and pills. They determined the nicotine breakdown rate of 1,240 people who were trying to quit smoking. Next, the volunteers were given either a nicotine patch, a non-nicotine based drug or a placebo pill.
Researchers found that the participants who broke down nicotine at a normal rate had better success rates using the pill than they did when using the patch. The volunteers who broke down nicotine at a relatively slow rate were found to have similar success rates with both the patch and the pill.
The implication for the study is that individuals’ rates at which their bodies can break down nicotine may help determine which method for quitting would be most effective, researchers said. The study’s findings, published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, suggest that a blood test to check for nicotine breakdown speed may help smokers choose which quitting method to use. This type of blood test is currently used for research purposes, but researchers say the test could be developed for wider use.
PTSD risk tied to certain genes
A person’s risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be affected, at least in part, by genetic variances, according to new research.
PTSD, a psychiatric disorder that can occur following a trauma, affects about 5.2 million adults in the U.S. every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Statistics also show that about 7 percent of the U.S. population will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
The new study aimed to find out why certain people experience PTSD following a trauma, such as war, rape or a natural disaster, while others do not.
Scientists from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) first collected DNA samples from 200 individuals. The DNA samples were previously taken from individuals and families who survived a destructive earthquake in Armenia in 1988. Next, researchers analyzed the roles of two genes called COMT, which lowers dopamine, and TPH-2, which controls serotinin production.
The researchers found a link between variants of the two genes and PTSD symptoms. The findings, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, suggest that people who carry the genetic variants may have a higher risk of developing PTSD. Researchers said they hope that the findings will lead to new screening methods for people at risk for PTSD, as well as new therapies to prevent and treat the disorder.
iPhone separation may affect cognitive skills
When you separate someone from their cell phones, it can have a negative effect on them both psychologically and physiologically, including lowering their performance on cognitive tests, concludes a new study.
Scientists from the University of Missouri focused specifically on the effects on iPhone users of cell phone separation. The iPhone users were asked to sit at a computer cubicle and told that the purpose of the study was to test a new wireless blood pressure tool.
The participants completed two word search puzzles–one during which their iPhone stayed in their possession and the second during which they did not have their phones. The participants’ phones were also called once during the second word search puzzle. While the volunteers took the puzzles, the researchers monitored their heart rates and blood pressure levels.
The researchers found several differences between results from the first test and those from the second test. When they didn’t have their iPhones, the participants demonstrated elevated heart rates and blood pressure levels, and they reported increased feelings of anxiety and unpleasantness. Performance also dropped during the second test, meaning that the participants were unable to find as may words in the puzzle when their phones were taken from them.
The findings suggest that cell phone separation may have a negative impact when their owners are performing mental tasks, researchers said. They added that iPhone users may benefit from keeping their phones in their possession during demanding daily tasks, such as giving a presentation, taking a test or completing an important project.