Lecture 11 Tuesday, December 3, 2013
• Alcohol in the modern world
• After that, will talk about final exam—will do Q&A session
• In the last 50-60 years, look at some of the themes we’ve been examining
o Look at the way alcohol has a presence in modern society
o Huge variety of alcohol cultures everywhere in the world
o And there are places where there is legally no alcohol
o Places where alcohol is very much part of the culture—people drink frequently
o Other places where dirnking is just not that common—has to do with patterns of
sociability—whether they drink in public or at home.
• France: has undergone huge transformation in last 30-40 years. Consumption has gone
down. They drink mostly wine. Per capita consumption has gone down to less than half
what it was in 1960—in fifty years!
o They haven’t picked up other alcohols like Canada—here, wine is going up,
spirits going up, beer going down. But within the beer category, craft beers going
up and the big brands (Molson’s, Labatt’s) going down.
o But if you lookat total alcohol consumption in Canada, it’s flat…
o Anyway, back to France: wine hasn’t really been replaced by anything else.
Overall consumption of alcohol has gone down dramatically.
o Number of licenced drinking places has gone down (called cafes). People
typically think of drinking at a sidewalk café. You see that in Paris. But in smaller
towns and cities—gone! There are towns with no bars. Thousands of bars closing
every month because there’s no business.
o In Dijon, business stopping. People aren’t stopping to have a drink before they go
home and the kids are asleep and everything’s ready. That used to happen, but
not anymore. Men now have to participate in the home, look after the kids,
o Balance of sociability shifted from public to private—people stay in and have a
o New laws in France—French used to be relaxed about drinking and driving and
general alcohol regulations—there would be signs in the bars but no one paid
attention. Now, tougher regulations (some of them more so than Canadian
o Under President Sarkozy (a non-drinker): tough on alcohol. Had majority of
Parliament behind him. Put in place new drinking and driving regulations. Had great effect on traffic accidents and road deaths, but they changed French
o No one wants to argue in favour of high road toll, but the cost of bringing it down
was change in drinking culture!
o You also find this in Scandinavia, Russia, Brazil. There were real concerns about
costs of alcohol on the road—brought blood alcohol level down to 0.2%. That
means you can’t have a drink and get behind the wheel.
o Sweden: you drive to a party, get a cab back, pick up the car later. Not a thought
of drinking and driving.
o This has changed drinking culture dramatically.
• Some of the issues that alcohol presents
• Some are new—drining and driving has become issue in past 30-40 years—became
major with mass car ownership.
o When people rode horses, there were no laws against riding while intoxicated
o When people moved from horses to cars around early 1900s, the fact that people
were driving cars presented many new challenges to policy makers and
o Shift from one form of transportation to another.
o Riding a horse through town—you just drive and avoid everyone else.
o Cars arrive—can’t trust people to avoid one another—driving at 20 mph-- roads
develop, suddenly start driving on the left or right side and have speed limits.
First speed limits were 12 mph. New Zealand decided on 6 mph.
o This technology demanded eattention to alcohol.
o In a car, driving at 6-10 mph while drunk, could pose danger.
o Really was a major challenge by end of the war, in the 1960s. In 1960s-1970s,
people didn’t care about drinking and driving. It became major in 1980s, 1990s.
o Recently, we have organizations like MADD and other lobby groups having
significant impact on legislation related to drinking and driving.
• In the US, drinking and driving was something that became an issue especially with the
rise of organizations like MADD. Lobbying efforst of MADD and other organizations led
to strict regulations not only on drinking and driving but on minimum drinking age.
o More focused in this period: designation of certaion ages as being appropriate for
o Minimum drinking age is important.
o They’re all around 17-21. There’s a reason for that. o A sense in the 19 century that there is such a thing as an age of majority.
Typically in Western society around age 21. Everything moves around that age.
o Shift in the sense of age—there was no age of majority in Europe until 19
century (and really 20 century). Before that, people didn’t really know how old
they were. It didn’t matter except for figuring out when to marry, but that was the
only reason that age was important. There was no drinking age, no one voted, no
one drove cars.
o Right through to 19 century, many people not sure of how old they were.
Birthdays were not celebrated until 19 century. Age becomes fluid thing.
o Court documents—people want to know age, address, marital status, occupation.
Pretty accurate on this, but for age the person will say “I am about 40” or “about
45”. Often even then, the age is wrong. About ¼ got their age wrong by 2-3 years
(can find out by looking at birth records). They didn’t carry these records with
o Idea of age was new, applied to alcohol.
o Only in 19 century did legislators grope towards idea of minimum drinking age.
Because people were going to work at age 13-14 (apprenticed). Typically kids left
home and lived with another family, like an exchange. Idea that you bring up
children more rigorously if they’re not your own.
o When we look at drinking in modern society, it’s okay to drink like adults because
they are adults.
o 19 century: shift in idea of childhood, begin to elongate it. Instead of going out
and getting a job at 13-14, they create education system, insist children have to
go to school until 14. That made them stay home until 14, dependent.
o Elongates childhood.
o Now we’ve added more grades in school, university as a general experience.
We’ve extended the period of dependency from 13-14 in 18 century to the early
20s-mid 20s! Almost doubled!
o We’ve created whole different idea of relationship between independents and
dependents, parents and children.
o We have to develop new terms: “youth”, “young adults”.
• This has played into alcohol
o Need to have age for voting, driving, also drinking.
o End of 19 century (and 20 century in many places)
o England, right through to end of 19 century, concern about young people
drinking. Not so much that young people were ordering a pint of beer, but in working class families, parents would send out children to get alcohol for them.
The kids would sip it on the way home.
o Temperance organizations would set up observation posts outside bars, count
how many children were seen sipping the beer on the way home.
o Parliament sets minimum age of 14. Only 14 year olds can get alcohol to take
o Placed regulations specifying age at which kids could do this, another age for
kids to get a sealed container.
o But it took until 20 century before minimum drinking ages were widespread.
• Now, drinking ages 17-21 in countries with minimum drinking age. But there are
countries that don’t have minimum drinking age.
o Some countries have minimum purchase age…
o Muslim countries don’t have minimum drinking age because they can’t drink!
o These are the minimum ages at which you can drink alcohol. What’s alcohol? An
alcoholic beverage is defined as beverage having certain minimum percentage.
o In Nicaragua, definition of alcoholic beverage is something with more than 12%.
For the most part, beer not considered alcoholic. Minmum drinking age would
aplly more to wine and spirits (rum).
o It’s simple in Ontario/North America, but these ages can vary according to the
kind of alcohol and definition of alcoholic beverage.
o Drinking age is huge issue! What happens when you change it? Let’s say you
start at 21, then it’s droped to 19, then 18. It’s enabling people who are one year
younger to drink. These are small steps, but they engender a huge amount of
debate. Suggestion of changing drinking age has been resisted by anti-alcohol
o After repeal of Prohibiton in the States, 21 years was minimum drinking age. But
in 1971, there was amendment to the constitution that lowered voting age to 18.
So many of the states begant o lower drinking age—if you’re old enough to vote,
old enough to drink. They went to 18 or 19 or 20. So by 1975, 29 states had
lowerd drinking age.
o But reaction from temperance organizations! They were still powerful enough
even then. They were saying car accidents by young people were increasing as
o 1976-1983: about half the states raise dage back to 21.
o 1984: federal government got into the act. Interesting because they wanted to
stay out of alcohol policy but they felt heat from the organizations, quite sympathetic to them. Passed the Uniform Drinking Age Act—required all states to
raise drinking age back to 21.
o Government didn’t have power to force state to do this (it was state issue), but
they linked drinking and driving with this act. They said any state that didn’t do
this would lose 10% of federal highway funding. There was financial penalty. All
the satets raised minimum drinking age.
o Look at individual states: Virgini had age at 21 in 1934 (after Prohibition), in 1974
lowered to 18 (after amendment to constitution) for beer only, in 1981 age for
beer stayed the same if you drank it in the bar, but you’d have to be 19 if you
take the beer out of the bar and drink it somewhere else, in 1985 brought the age
back up to 21 but they didn’t want to cut off the 18/19 year olds, so they
grandfathered some people in . 1987, raised the age for all beverages to 21 (the
same situation they were in in 1934).
o This is a kind of trajectory that many Americna states went through. Tendency to
push age down, but counterbearing tendencies to push it up again.
• Question of drinking and driving became major issue in 1990s as car ownership raised
o Also start to get better measures of blood alcohol levels.
o Tendency is to press them down, press lower thresholds of blood alcohol.
o We now have breathalyzers.
o These breathalyzers were used widely for first time in 1930s by Nazis. But didn’t
take hold until 1970s-1980s.
o They’re now very common.
o Actually, now interestingly, people are talking about hard drugs the same way
they did about drinking before. The signs of a high driver—slurred speech, not
walking properly, can’t concentrate, tests of motor skills like touching your nose.
o These are ongoing things that the police are dealing with butt hey’ve sorted out
the alcohol issue.
• Other major issue associated with young people: binge (heavy, episodic) drinking
o There’s a current of thought in alcohol studies that things it’s not a helpful term,
like alcoholism, used so loosely and imprecisely that it’s useless
o Binge drinking is one of those
o Concern for it going back to 1990s even though it’s much more current in last 5-
10 years. Drinking significant volumes in short period with the purpose of getting
o There are three conditions to be satisfied before it’s called binge drinking, but the
first two are imprecise (how much is significant, what is considered short) and the third may not necessarily be true (maybe the person knew it was going to happen
but it wasn’t the main purpose, point was to calm his nerves).
o Similarity to the Gin Craze in England.
o It’s hard to see how widespread anything called “binge drinking” actually was.
o There are problems with this notion:
No standard definition of binge drinking
US and Canada: 5 standard drinks (glass of wine/beer/shot of spirits) for
males or 4 for females in one session.
What’s a session? Two hours before going out (pre-drinking) or an
evening at a dinner party (five hours). Makes a difference.
People who eat and drink 5 drinks over five hour period are technically
binge drinking, satisfies the conditions.
UK has much more expansive and flexible definition: 8 drinks for men, 6
for women. Much more generous than North American definition.
Some other organizations say binge drinking happens whenever blood
alcohol level reaches 0.8% (not allowed to drive a vehicle). At least it’s
consistent, ties in with other measures we use.
o Anyway, ti’s much debated, presented as problem affecting young people in early
2000s, particularly attention focused on students (high school students, they’re
below drinking age)
o Studies done showing proportion of students 13-15 years who drank within 30
days of being questioned. Ranged from 10% in Myanmar, Senegal to 50% in
Seychelles, Uruguay, Argentina.
o In Europe: from 75% in Czech republic to 17% in Iceland.
o BINGE DRINKING: 29% of European studnts reported consuming 5 or more
drinks durig once session in the 30 days.
o There’s a slight rise up to 2007, then a slight decline to 2011.
o There have been various attempts to reduce effects of bringe drinking
o UK in 2011: government tried to regulate consumption by tax—raised tax on high
alcohol beer, lowered tax on low alcohol beer, left mid-range beer the same. That
way it would encourage people who drink