Alcohol and Attitudes, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Everyday Life
Alcohol

Alcohol and Attitudes
Through its history, the United States has had conflicting attitudes toward alcohol. To some the use of alcohol was a sign of freedom and power, to others it was a social evil.

Prohibition. Between 1919 and 1933 alcohol was illegal in the United States. This prohibition caused an explosion in crime as gangsters rushed to fill the demand for alcohol. Though the nation rejoiced when prohibition was repealed, there are still many counties and municipalities that remain “dry”. This means that you can't buy alcoholic beverages or can buy them only with difficulty. In some areas you can buy alcoholic beverages in a store but cannot be served them in a restaurant. In order not to offend the “temperance” or anti-alcohol viewers, many of whom are very religious, television beer commercials will not show people actually drinking beer. The actors confine themselves to holding their glasses up to the light to savor the drink's appearance. The audience is left to guess whether or not the beer will actually be consumed off-screen.

A Maze of Laws and Rules. Every American state and jurisdiction has its own set of rules, laws and taxes regarding sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. In one state, as an example, you can buy beer in the supermarket, but not on Sunday mornings before noon. In this state, wines and spirits, but not beer, are sold in liquor stores only, which are closed on Sundays. Other states sell all sorts of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets, while still other, more restrictive, states allow sales only from state-controlled stores. Both state and federal governments tax alcoholic beverages, however.

The Alcoholic Beverage Industry. All kinds of alcoholic beverages are produced in the United States, or are imported. California is considered to have the best wine growing regions, and produces more than 90% of all American wine. The states of Washington, Oregon, and New York come next in wine production, but wineries exist in all 50 states. Imported wines are also commonly consumed. America also produces excellent spirits, though the only truly native American spirit is bourbon. Illegally made whisky, or “moonshine,” is popular in many areas. Scotch, American whisky and bourbon used to be very popular, but the king of spirits in America is now vodka.

Beer. America produces more beer than any other country. Though hundreds of small “micro-breweries” produce excellent beer, the mass-produced beer most Americans drink is not particularly distinctive. Many distinctive local and family-run breweries were killed off by prohibition. A large group of Americans enjoy “home-brewing,” producing beer in basements or bathtubs for their own enjoyment.

The issue of “drunk driving” is important in America, given the American dependence on the automobile. Laws against “driving under the influence” (DUI or DWI) are becoming harsher. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is one of the major groups working in this area.

Alcoholism. As in many countries, alcoholism is a major problem in the United States. Alcoholics Anonymous (“AA”) is a prominent voluntary support program for alcoholics, and Alanon is a major organization for relatives of alcoholics.



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