Alcoholism policy since the repeal of Prohibition has been largely based on the assumption that alcohol problems are the result of the failure of a small minority to “control” their drinking. Thus, in sharp contrast to the approach to other drug policies, the problem of alcohol abuse has been viewed as one of “bad users” rather than “bad substances.” This regard of alcoholism has helped exonerate the majority of drinkers and the alcohol industry from responsibility. However, mounting epidemiological evidence demonstrates that a primary factor in rates of diseases such as cirrhosis is the per capita use of alcohol and suggests that alcohol problems can be controlled or reduced only if all involved in the manufacture, sale or consumption of alcohol accept the burdens of restrictions over its availability and use. This acceptance will not be forthcoming, however, unless the prevailing market ethic of individual responsibility and minimal collective obligations to protect and preserve life is replaced with a new public health ethic rooted in social justice. This new ethic would assign the highest priority to life and would stress the obligations of all citizens to share the burdens of reasonable restrictions over all health hazards. In this paper a new alcohol policy is outlined based on just and reasonable limits on the availability, marketing and consumption of this substance.

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