Prohibition is the illegality of the manufacturing, storage in barrels or bottles, transportation, sale, possession, and consumption of alcohol including alcoholic beverages, or a period of time during which such illegality was enforced.
- Saudi Arabia
- Czech Republic
- Nordic countries
- Russian Empire and the Soviet Union
- United Kingdom
- Republic of Ireland
- United States
- Al Capone
- Revival of Prohibition
- New Zealand
The earliest records of prohibition of alcohol date to the Xia Dynasty (ca. 2070 BC–ca. 1600 BC) in China. Yu the Great, the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty, prohibited alcohol throughout the kingdom. It was legalized again after his death, during the reign of his son Qi. Another record was in the Code of Hammurabi (ca.1772 BCE) specifically banning the selling of beer for money. It could only be bartered for barley: "If a beer seller do not receive barley as the price for beer, but if she receive money or make the beer a measure smaller than the barley measure received, they shall throw her into the water."
In the early twentieth century, much of the impetus for the prohibition movement in the Nordic countries and North America came from moralistic convictions of pietistic Protestants. Prohibition movements in the West coincided with the advent of women's suffrage, with newly empowered women as part of the political process strongly supporting policies that curbed alcohol consumption.
The first half of the 20th century saw periods of prohibition of alcoholic beverages in several countries:
After several years, prohibition failed in North America and elsewhere. Rum-running became widespread and organized crime took control of the distribution of alcohol. Distilleries and breweries in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean flourished as their products were either consumed by visiting Americans or illegally exported to the United States. Chicago became notorious as a haven for prohibition dodgers during the time known as the Roaring Twenties. Prohibition generally came to an end in the late 1920s or early 1930s in most of North America and Europe, although a few locations continued prohibition for many more years.
In some countries where the dominant religion forbids the use of alcohol, the production, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited or restricted today. For example, in Saudi Arabia and Libya alcohol is banned; in Pakistan and Iran it is illegal with exceptions.
Sale of alcohol is banned in Afghanistan.
In Bangladesh, alcohol is somewhat prohibited due to its proscription in the Islamic faith. However, the purchase and consumption is allowed in the country. The Garo tribe consume a type of rice beer, and Christians in this country drink and purchase wine for their holy communion.
In Brunei, alcohol consumption and sale is banned in public. Non-Muslims are allowed to purchase a limited amount of alcohol from their point of embarkation overseas for their own private consumption, and non-Muslims who are at least the age of 18 are allowed to bring in not more than two bottles of liquor (about two litres) and twelve cans of beer per person into the country.
In India alcohol is a state subject and individual states can legislate prohibition, but currently most states do not have prohibition. Prohibition is in force in the states of Gujarat, Bihar and Nagaland, parts of Manipur, and the union territory of Lakshadweep. The state of Kerala has placed some limitations on sale of alcohol. All other States and union territories of India permit the sale of alcohol.
Election days and certain national holidays such as Gandhi Jayanti (birthdate of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) are meant to be dry days when liquor sale is not permitted. The state of Andhra Pradesh had imposed Prohibition under the Chief Ministership of N. T. Rama Rao but this was thereafter lifted. Prohibition was also observed from 1996 to 1998 in Haryana. Some Indian states observe dry days on major religious festivals/occasions depending on the popularity of the festival in that region.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned in Iran.
Alcohol is banned for people who use small shops and convenience stores.
The consumption, importation and brewing of, and trafficking in liquor is strictly against the law.
Alcohol is banned for Muslims in Malaysia due to its Islamic faith and sharia law.
The Maldives ban the import of alcohol, x-raying all baggage on arrival. Alcoholic beverages are available only to foreign tourists on resort islands and may not be taken off the resort.
Pakistan allowed the free sale and consumption of alcohol for three decades from 1947, but restrictions were introduced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto just weeks before he was removed as prime minister in 1977. Since then, only members of non-Muslim minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Zoroastrians are allowed to apply for alcohol permits. The monthly quota is dependent upon one's income, but usually is about five bottles of liquor or 100 bottles of beer. In a country of 180 million, only about 60 outlets are allowed to sell alcohol. The Murree Brewery in Rawalpindi was once the only legal brewery, but today there are more. The ban officially is enforced by the country's Islamic Ideology Council, but it is not strictly policed. Members of religious minorities, however, often sell their liquor permits to Muslims as part of a continuing black market trade in alcohol.
There are only restrictions during elections in the Philippines. Alcohol is prohibited to be bought two days prior to an election. The Commission on Elections may opt to extend the period of time of the liquor ban. In the 2010 elections, the liquor ban was on a minimum two days; in the 2013 elections, there was a proposal that it be extended to five days. This was overturned by the Supreme Court.
Other than election-related prohibition, alcohol is freely sold to anyone above the legal drinking age.
The sale, consumption, importation and brewing of, and trafficking in liquor is strictly against the law.
Alcohol is prohibited from being sold during election time, from 6 pm the day prior to voting, until the end of the day of voting itself. Alcohol is also prohibited on major Buddhist holy days, and sometimes on Royal Commemoration days, such as birthdays.
Thailand also enforces time-limited bans on alcohol on a daily basis. Alcohol can only be legally purchased in stores or restaurants between 11 am–2 pm and 5 pm–midnight. This law is enforced by all major retailers (most notably 7-Eleven) and restaurants but is frequently ignored by the smaller 'mom and pop' stores. Hotels and resorts are exempt from the rules.
The consumption of alcohol is also banned at any time within 200 meters of a filling station (where sale of alcohol is also illegal), schools, temples or hospitals as well as on board any type of road vehicle regardless of whether it is being consumed by the driver or passenger.
At certain times of the year – Thai New Year (Songkran) as an example – the government may also enforce arbitrary bans on the sale and consumption of alcohol in specific public areas where large scale festivities are due to take place and large crowds are expected.
Alcohol is banned in Yemen.
On 14 September 2012, the government of the Czech Republic banned all sales of liquor with more than 20% alcohol. From this date on it was illegal to sell such alcoholic beverages in shops, supermarkets, bars, restaurants, gas stations, e-shops etc. This measure was taken in response to the wave of methanol poisoning cases resulting in the deaths of 18 people in the Czech Republic. Since the beginning of the "methanol affair" the total number of deaths has increased to 25. The ban was to be valid until further notice, though restrictions were eased towards the end of September. The last bans on Czech alcohol with regard to the poisoning cases were lifted on 10 October 2012, when neighbouring Slovakia and Poland allowed its import once again.
The Nordic countries, with the exception of Denmark, have had a strong temperance movement since the late 1800s, closely linked to the Christian revival movement of the late 19th century, but also to several worker organisations. As an example, in 1910 the temperance organisations in Sweden had some 330,000 members, which was about 16% of a population of 5.5 million. Naturally, this heavily influenced the decisions of Nordic politicians in the early 20th century.
Already in 1907, the Faroe Islands passed a law prohibiting all sale of alcohol, which was in force until 1992. However, very restricted private importation from Denmark was allowed from 1928.
In 1914, Sweden put in place a rationing system, the Bratt System, in force until 1955. However a referendum in 1922 rejected an attempt to enforce total prohibition.
In 1915, Iceland instituted total prohibition. The ban for wine was lifted in 1922 and spirits in 1935, but beer remained prohibited until 1989.
In 1916, Norway prohibited distilled beverages, and in 1917 the prohibition was extended to also include fortified wine and beer. The wine and beer ban was lifted in 1923, and in 1927 the ban of distilled beverages was also lifted.
In 1919, Finland enacted prohibition, as one of the first acts after independence from the Russian Empire. Four previous attempts to institute prohibition in the early 20th century had failed due to opposition from the tsar. After a development similar to the one in the United States during its prohibition, with large-scale smuggling and increasing violence and crime rates, public opinion turned against the prohibition, and after a national referendum where 70% voted for a repeal of the law, prohibition was ended in early 1932.
Today, all Nordic countries (with the exception of Denmark) continue to have strict controls on the sale of alcohol which is highly taxed (dutied) to the public. There are government monopolies in place for selling spirits, wine and stronger beers in Norway (Vinmonopolet), Sweden (Systembolaget), Iceland (Vínbúðin), the Faroe Islands (Rúsdrekkasøla Landsins) and Finland (Alko). Bars and restaurants may, however, import alcoholic beverages directly or through other companies.
Greenland, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, does not share its easier controls on the sale of alcohol. Greenland has (like Denmark) sales in food shops, but prices are high. Private import when traveling from Denmark is only allowed in small quantities.
Russian Empire and the Soviet Union
In the Russian Empire, a limited version of a Dry Law was introduced in 1914. It continued through the turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War into the period of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union until 1925.
Although the sale or consumption of commercial alcohol has never been prohibited by law, historically various groups in the UK have campaigned for the prohibition of alcohol, including the Society of Friends (Quakers), The Methodist Church and other non-conformists, as well as temperance movements such as Band of Hope and temperance Chartist movements of the 19th century.
Formed in 1853 and inspired by the Maine law in the USA, the United Kingdom Alliance aimed at promoting a similar law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in the UK. This hard-line group of prohibitionists was opposed by other temperance organisations who preferred moral persuasion to a legal ban. This division in the ranks limited the effectiveness of the temperance movement as a whole. The impotence of legislation in this field was demonstrated when the Sale of Beer Act 1854 which restricted Sunday opening hours had to be repealed, following widespread rioting. In 1859 a prototype prohibition bill was overwhelmingly defeated in the House of Commons.
On 22 March 1917 during WWI at a crowded meeting in the Queen's Hall in London (chaired by Alfred Booth) many influential people including Agnes Weston spoke, or letters from them were read out, against alcohol consumption, calling for prohibition; General Sir Reginald Hart wrote to the meeting that "Every experienced officer knew that practically all unhappiness and crime in the Army is due to drink". At the meeting Lord Channing said that it was a pity that the whole Cabinet did not follow the example of King George V and Lord Kitchener when in 1914 those two spoke calling for complete prohibition for the duration of the war.
Republic of Ireland
The sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in the Irish state on Christmas Day, and Good Friday. Furthermore, licensing hours in supermarkets and off-licences are between 10:30 and 22:00 daily.
An official, but non-binding, federal referendum on prohibition was held in 1898. Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier's government chose not to introduce a federal bill on prohibition, mindful of the strong antipathy in Quebec. As a result, Canadian prohibition was instead enacted through laws passed by the provinces during the first twenty years of the 20th century. The provinces repealed their prohibition laws, mostly during the 1920s.
Zapatista Communities often ban alcohol as part of a collective decision. This has been used by many villages as a way to decrease domestic violence and has generally been favored by women. However, this is not recognized by federal Mexican law as the Zapatista movement is strongly opposed by the federal government.
The sale and purchase of alcohol is prohibited on and the night before certain national holidays, such as Natalicio de Benito Juárez (birthdate of Benito Juárez) and Día de la Revolución, which are meant to be dry nationally. The same "dry law" applies to the days before presidential elections every six years.
Prohibition focused on the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages; however, exceptions were made for medicinal and religious uses. Alcohol consumption was never illegal under federal law. Nationwide Prohibition did not begin in the United States until January 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The 18th amendment was ratified in 1919, and was repealed in December, 1933, with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment.
Concern over excessive alcohol consumption began during the American colonial era, when fines were imposed for drunken behavior and for selling liquor without a license. In the eighteenth century, when drinking was a part of everyday American life, Protestant religious groups, especially the Methodists, and health reformers, including Benjamin Rush and others, urged Americans to curb their drinking habits for moral and health reasons. In particular, Benjamin Rush believed Americans were drinking hard spirits in excess, so he created "A Moral and Physical Thermometer," displaying the progression of behaviors caused by the consumption of various alcohols. By the 1840s the temperance movement was actively encouraging individuals to reduce alcohol consumption. Music (a completely new genre) was composed and performed in support of the efforts, both in social contexts and in response to state legislation attempts to regulate alcohol. Many took a pledge of total abstinence (teetotalism) from drinking distilled liquor as well as beer and wine. Prohibition remained a major reform movement from the 1840s until the 1920s, when nationwide prohibition went into effect, and was supported by evangelical Protestant churches, especially the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, and Congregationalists. Kansas and Maine were early adopters of statewide prohibition. Following passage of the Maine law, Delaware, Ohio, Illinois, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New York, among others, soon passed statewide prohibition legislation; however, a number of these laws were overturned.
As temperance groups continued to promote prohibition, other groups opposed increased alcohol restrictions. For example, Chicago's citizens fought against enforcing Sunday closings laws in the 1850s, which included mob violence. It was also during this time when patent medicines, many of which contained alcohol, gained popularity. During the American Civil War efforts at increasing federal revenue included imposition of taxes on liquor and beer. The liquor industry responded to the taxes by forming an industry lobby, the United States Brewers Association, that succeeded in reducing the tax rate on beer from $1 to 60 cents. The Women's Crusade of 1873 and the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), founded in 1874, "marked the formal entrance of women into the temperance movement." It was also the first time that women had organized and acted together politically, using their influence to fight against the drunken culture of the time. Organizations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Movement would set the stage for women to organize and demand political action as a group with common interests and common goals. The WCTU and the Prohibition Party, organized in 1869, remained major players in the temperance movement until the early twentieth century, when the Anti-Saloon League, formed in 1895, emerged as the movement's leader.
Between 1880 and 1890, although several states enacted local option laws that allowed counties or towns to go dry by referendum, only six states had statewide prohibition by state statute or constitutional amendment. The League, with the support of evangelical Protestant churches including the Episcopalians and Lutherans, and other Progressive-era reformers continued to press for prohibition legislation. Opposition to prohibition was strong in America's urban industrial centers, where a large, immigrant, working-class population generally opposed it, as did Jewish and Catholic religious groups. In the years leading up to World War I, nativism, American patriotism, distrust of immigrants, and anti-German sentiment became associated with the prohibition movement. Through the use of pressure politics on legislators, the League and other temperance reformers achieved the goal of nationwide prohibition by emphasizing the need to destroy the moral corruption of the saloons and the political power of the brewing industry, and to reduce domestic violence in the home. By 1913 nine states had stateside prohibition and thirty-one others had local option laws in effect, which included nearly fifty percent of the U.S. population. At that time the League and other reformers turned their efforts toward attaining a constitutional amendment and grassroots support for nationwide prohibition.
In December 1917, after two previous attempts had failed (one in 1913; the other in 1915), Congress approved a resolution to submit a constitutional amendment on nationwide prohibition to the states for ratification. The new constitutional amendment prohibited "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes". On January 8, 1918, Mississippi became the first state to ratify the amendment, and on January 16, 1919, Nebraska became the thirty-sixth state to ratify it, assuring its passage into federal law. On October 28, 1919, Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, also known as the Volstead Act, which provided enabling legislation to implement the Eighteenth Amendment. When the National Prohibition Act was passed on October 28, 1919, thirty-three of the forty-eight states were already dry. Congress ratified the Eighteenth Amendment on January 16, 1920, and nationwide prohibition began on January 17, 1920.
During the first years of Prohibition, the new federal law was enforced in regions such as the rural South and western states, where it had popular support; however, in large urban cities and in small industrial or mining towns, residents defied or ignored the law. The Ku Klux Klan was a major supporter of the Prohibition and once it was passed they helped with the enforcement of it. For example, in 1923, Klansmen traded pistol shots with bootleggers, burned down roadhouses, and whipped liquor sellers, and anybody else who broke the moral code. The Prohibition was effective in reducing per-capita consumption, and consumption remained lower for a quarter-century after Prohibition had been repealed. Sale of alcoholic beverages remained illegal during Prohibition, but alcoholic drinks were still available. Large quantities of alcohol were smuggled into the United States from Canada, over land, by sea routes along both ocean coasts, and through the Great Lakes. While the federal government cracked down on alcohol consumption on land within the United States, it was a different story along the U.S. coastlines, where vessels outside the 3-mile limit were exempt. In addition, home brewing was popular during Prohibition. Malt and hops stores popped up across the country and some former breweries turned to selling malt extract syrup, ostensibly for baking and beverage purposes.
Prohibition became increasingly unpopular during the Great Depression. Some believe that the demand for increased employment and tax revenues during this time brought an end to Prohibition. Others argue it was the result of the economic motivations of American businessmen as well as the stress and excesses of the era that kept it from surviving, even under optimal economic conditions.
The repeal movement was initiated and financed by the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, who worked to elect Congressmen who agreed to support repeal. The group's wealthy supporters included John D. Rockefeller, Jr., S. S. Kresge, and the Du Pont family, among others, who had abandoned the dry cause. Pauline Sabin, a wealthy Republican who founded the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR), argued that Prohibition should be repealed because it made the United States a nation of hypocrites and undermined its respect for the rule of law. This hypocrisy and the fact that women had initially led the prohibition movement convinced Sabin to establish the WONPR. Their efforts eventually led to the repeal of prohibition.
When Sabin's fellow Republicans would not support her efforts, she went to the Democrats, who switched their support of the dry cause to endorse repeal under the leadership of liberal politicians such as Fiorello La Guardia and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Sabin and her supporters emphasized that repeal would generate enormous sums of much-needed tax revenue, and weaken the base of organized crime.
Repeal of Prohibition was accomplished with the ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment on December 5, 1933. Under its terms, states were allowed to set their own laws for the control of alcohol. Following repeal, public interest in an organized prohibition movement dwindled. However, it survived for a while in a few southern and border states. To this day, however, there are still counties and parishes within the US known as "dry", where the sale of liquor (whiskey, wine) – not beer – is prohibited; several such municipalities have adopted liquor-by-the-drink, however in order to expand tax revenue.
Al Capone was the most notorious gangster of his generation. Born on January 17, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York; Capone settled in Chicago to take over Johnny Torrio's business dealing with outlawed liquor. Within three years, Capone had nearly 700 men at his disposal. As the profits came in, Capone acquired finesse—particularly in the management of politicians. By the middle of the decade, he had gained control of the suburb of Cicero, and had installed his own mayor. Capone's rise to fame did not come without bloodshed. Rival gangs, such as the Gennas and the Aiellos, started wars with Capone, eventually leading to a rash of killings. In 1927, Capone and his gang were pulling in approximately $60 million per year—most of it from beer. Capone not only controlled the sale of liquor to over 10,000 speakeasies, but he also controlled the supply from Canada to Florida. Capone was imprisoned in 1929 for tax violations and died January 25, 1947, from a heart attack, pneumonia, and syphilis.
Revival of Prohibition
Although the Prohibition amendment was repealed, there are currently efforts underway to bring back Prohibition using a back door approach. Tactics include lowering the legal limit below what is necessary to keep unsafe drivers off the road, raising alcohol taxes, and limiting the time and places alcohol can be consumed.
In Venezuela, twenty-one hours before every election, the government prohibits the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages throughout the national territory, including the restriction to all dealers, liquor stores, supermarkets, restaurants, wineries, pubs, bars, public entertainment, clubs and any establishment that markets alcoholic beverages. This is done to prevent violent alcohol induced confrontations because of the high political polarization. The same is done during the holy week as a measure to reduce the alarming rate of road traffic accidents during these holidays.
The Australian Capital Territory (then the Federal Capital Territory) was the first jurisdiction in Australia to have prohibition laws. In 1911, King O'Malley, then Minister of Home Affairs, shepherded laws through Parliament preventing new issue or transfer of licences to sell alcohol, to address unruly behaviour among workers building the new capital city. Prohibition was partial, since possession of alcohol purchased outside of the Territory remained legal and the few pubs that had existing licences could continue to operate. The Federal Parliament repealed the laws after residents of the Federal Capital Territory voted for the end of them in a 1928 plebiscite.
Since then, some local councils have enacted local dry zones in which possession or consumption of alcohol is forbidden. Nearly all dry zones are only a district within a larger community. Notable among those remaining in existence is the Adelaide city centre.
More recently, alcohol has been prohibited in many remote indigenous communities. Penalties for transporting alcohol into these "dry" communities are severe and can result in confiscation of any vehicles involved; in dry areas within the Northern Territory, all vehicles used to transport alcohol are seized.
In New Zealand, prohibition was a moralistic reform movement begun in the mid-1880s by the Protestant evangelical and Nonconformist churches and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and after 1890 by the Prohibition League. It assumed that individual virtue was all that was needed to carry the colony forward from a pioneering society to a more mature one, but it never achieved its goal of national prohibition. However, both the Church of England and the largely Irish Catholic Church rejected prohibition as an intrusion of government into the church's domain, while the growing labor movement saw capitalism rather than alcohol as the enemy.
Reformers hoped that the women's vote, in which New Zealand was a pioneer, would swing the balance, but the women were not as well organized as in other countries. Prohibition had a majority in a national referendum in 1911, but needed a 60% vote to pass. The movement kept trying in the 1920s, losing three more referenda by close votes; it managed to keep in place a 6pm closing hour for pubs and Sunday closing. The Depression and war years effectively ended the movement. but their 6pm closing hour remained until October 1967 when it was extended to 10pm.
For many years, referenda were held for individual towns or electorates, often coincident with general elections. The ballots determined whether these individual areas would be "dry" – that is, alcohol could not be purchased or consumed in public in these areas. One notable example was the southern city of Invercargill, which was dry from 1907 to 1943. People wanting alcohol usually travelled to places outside the city (such as the nearby township of Lorneville or the town of Winton) to drink in the local pubs or purchase alcohol to take back home. The last bastion of this 'dry' area remains in force in the form of a licensing trust which still to this day governs the sale of liquor in Invercargill. The city does not allow the sale of alcohol (beer and wine included) in supermarkets unlike the remainder of New Zealand, and all form of alcohol regardless of the sort can only be sold in bars and liquor stores.
Prohibition was of limited success in New Zealand as—like in other countries—it led to organised bootlegging. The most famous bootlegged alcohol in New Zealand was that produced in the Hokonui Hills close to the town of Gore (not coincidentally, the nearest large town to Invercargill). Even today, the term "Hokonui" conjures up images of illicit whisky to many New Zealanders.
In many countries in Latin America, the Philippines, Turkey and several US states, the sale but not the consumption of alcohol is prohibited before and during elections.