Can societal controls make alcohol as undesirable as smoking?

A new report says that alcohol costs society as much in health care as smoking and high blood pressure. As Great Britain prepares to adopt its stay-open-24-hours policy for pubs, bars and clubs, the report says that controlling consumption by restricting times to purchase it would directly reduce the incidence of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related mortalities.

I remember back a couple of decades ago when smoking began to be seriously frowned upon by polite society. When people could still freely pollute the air on tight-spaced places like airplanes. And I used to smoke years ago, so I was just as guilty as others. But eventually, it got to where people simply looked aghast at you for lighting up–and then eventually made bold enough to ask you to go outside if you had to do that.

According to what I’ve heard from international social work exchange members, in Africa for instance if someone is practicing undesirable behavior (like regularly getting drunk and making trouble), the social network simply spurns the person. The Amish societies “shun” someone who’s misbehaving. Since we are all social creatures, being shut out by every member of your society is a powerful punishment that could easily induce you to toe the line (unless you had another readily available social outlet to escape to).

So yes, it makes perfect sense that if society would start frowning on drinking, fewer people would do it and those who did would probably drink less. But there’s a lot of money in alcohol, just as there is in cigarettes. Some powerful folks will be fighting to keep our policies as liberal as possible.