Ms Engs studies the cycles of Health Reform in the US from 1800
to the present day. The cycles are defined as 'periods of cultural
revitalization that begin in a general crisis of beliefs and values
and extend over a generation or more, resulting in a profound
reorientation of beliefs and values. Each cycle lasts 80 to 100
Clean living movements are identified as broad periods when concerns
about alcohol, tobacco, sex, diet, fitness and disease were in
precedence, leading to legislation. This is often followed by
a backlash .Three such Clean Living Movements are described, the
first covering 1830-60, the second 1890 to 1920 and the third
1970 to 2005?.
Single issues tend to spark the campaigns - temperance against
'ardent spirits'in the first case, a move against the corruption
of saloons in the second case and smoking and drink-driving in
the current movement - few would have suspected in the 'two martini
long lunches of the 1970's that smoking would be banned in public
places in the 1990's, or that the drinking age would be raised
to 21. The cycle is historically broken by a public backlash to
restrictions, leading to some repeal, over time the problems increase
again, and so the cycle renews itself.
The first movement was directed against the drunkenness of immigrants
and labourers in the Jacksonian era. Alcohol had been seen as
medicine and food until 1812 'a good creature of God' (Rush 1812).
Engs believes the change in attitude was sparked by the new industrialists
who needed sober machine operators during the industrial revolution.
The movement was not against fermented beverages, but against
'ardent spirits' and drinking sprees'Only in the 1830's was 'abstinence'
preached and 13 Sates introduced legislation banning public drinking
and the distribution and sale of liquor. A backlash occurred and
by the Civil War most laws had been repealed.
'The movement is not so much against the consumption of whiskey
and other alcoholic beverages as against saloons, rum shops, bars
and the like'Edward Lissner, Harpers Weekly 1907
The second movement of 1880 to 1920 was spurred by rapid urbanisation
, indus-trial expansion and immigration, which resulted in huge
social pressures. Saloons were seen as responsible for vice, prostitution
and the corruption of family values. The movement was started
by the Womens Christian Temperance Union (the largest and most
powerful womens movement assembled in US history) and then carried
through to legislation by the politically motivated and powerful
Anti-Saloon League, resulting in Prohibition on a National level
in 1919/20. The backlash occurred in the form of 'roaring 20's,
with drinking being driven underground resulting in the consumption
of unregulated and untaxed liquor, the growth of organised crime
and political corruption.
The third and current movement was sparked as a reaction to the
'flower power' generation as a crusade against sex, drugs, alcohol
and finally AIDS. For the first time 'system' blame was manifest
rather than self responsibility, characterised by litigation against
manufacturers and smoking and drinking being categorised as 'diseases'.
The concept of moderation was removed from government policy in
the 1980's, with a goal to reduce overall consumption rather than
target problem areas being set by the Office of Substance Abuse
and Prevention. Health warning labels were introduced in 1989,
and by 1988 all States had raised the minimum drinking age to
21.Engs belivesThe US is still in this phase with the CSPI calling
for zero tolerance laws and server liability and .08 BAC levels
being driven for through the pressure of federal highway funds.
The end of the Movement is envisaged to be in 2005.
Engs believes the backlash began in 1993, sparked by the 60 minutes
Morris Shafer exposure of the french paradox in 1991. The concept
of responsible use has been reintroduced and the Dietary Guidelines
for Americans recognise that a daily drink of 14g for women and
2 drinks of 14g for men is acceptable and in some circumstances
can confer health benefits. Similarly back labels have been modified.
Such a structured backlash would not have been passible without
the wealth of scientific evidence which has amassed in the 1990's
demonstrating that drinking sensibly in most cases decreases mortality
from all causes and in particular coronary heart disease.
Clean Living Movements covers other issues in detail as well as
alcohol, such as public health, disease, sexual liberation, womens'
suffrage, drugs and tobacco. Ruth Engs approach is a fascinating
one and puts many of the current issues we are facing in perspective.
Clean Living movements is published by Praeger Publishers, 88
Post Road West, Westport, CT 06881, USA. ISBN 0-275-95994-5.