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JAMA 100 Years Ago
June 10, 2009

WHISKEY AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH

JAMA. 2009;301(22):2395. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.749

The National Model License League, and organization which claims to be working for the purification of the existing liquor business, has been utilizing a statement made by a distinguished physician in an address to the commercial bodies of Kentucky in their recent convention. Speaking of health matters in that state, this physician is quoted as saying that for every one death produced by whiskey 1,000 deaths have been caused by the drinking of impure milk; that for every single death produced by the drinking of whiskey there have been 5,000 deaths from the drinking of contaminated water. He prefaced this statement by a request that it should not be misunderstood or misinterpreted, but from the use to which it is being put it has certainly been misinterpreted and the attempt is made to make it still more generally misunderstood. The public is apt to accept generalities of this kind without allowing for the qualifications which may have been in the mind of the speaker. Furthermore, there are very few diseases which have not contributory factors to their mortality, and even moderate drinking habits affect the prognosis of disorders from which a total abstainer is comparatively safe. As a lay journal says, the apparently impressive and prodigious figures are not worth a straw as an argument. Certainly not in the way they are being used here. The case is another instance of the same kind that has heretofore been noticed in THE JOURNAL in which remarks are used in senses entirely different from those intended by the speaker or writer.

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