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SCIENCE JOTTINGS. 1I1E DRINK TRAFFIC IN WAR-TIME. SlEF regulation of the sale of drink is a thorny Spioblem at the present time. (On the onCe Iland, we have the complalnt that those who work with their hands are led by the rise in waees
to drink more than is good for them, whence a great deal of truancy and falling off in output, especially on the ‘lvdec and iI South Wales. On the other, there is the certainty, if the sale of drink is severely restricted, of a loss to the revenue of the State at the time when it can least afford it, and all equally serious aniontlt of discon- tent among the workers. A crisis like this is the temperance fanatic’s oppor- tunity, and proposals by people who are not all fanatics for the total pro- libition of alcoholic liquors, for the State puIr hase of breweries, distilleries, and publlic-houses, and the like, are raining in upon us. The strain on the mindls of men produced by the war naturally disposes everyone to heroic measures, and a false step in this direction might easily have fatal con- sequences. We should therefore examine care- fully whether there is any need for heroic measures at all. The restriction of the hours when drink may be sold hals much diminished drunkenness, as the falling off in the quantity of alcohol
consumedt and in the convictions for drunkenness alike shows, and has been accepted with great docility by all classes. All this goes to show that it is the moderate drinker who has been affected by the restriction, and that,
so far as he is con- cerned, there would be little to be gained by making it more severe, even if it were pos- sible to do so. Nor is it certain that the step would seriously affect the hard drinker, who is generally the person who absents himself from his work in order to get drunk, or diminishes his out- put when half-way to- wards or away from that consummation. Every doctor knows that a man or a woman really set on alcohol will get it somehow; and such a one, if the chance of getting beer or whisky were really cut off, would be driven to methylated spirit, ether, mastic, or some other substitute a thousand times more deleterious. So far, too, from increasing the output of work, the further restriction of drink might easily have the contrary es- sect. As our contem- porary the Lancet re- minds us, many of our munition and other factory workers are
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elderly men accustomed to take stimulants in moderation during or after their work without noticeable ill-effects. Suddenly to deprive them of these, and thereby to upset the habit of a lifetime, would probably lessen and not in- crease their efficiency. Finally, there is the
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financial side of the question. If the State buys up the liquor trade, it must in some shape or another pay interest on the purchase money. If, without doing so, it further limits
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the sale of drink, it will lose on the Customs and Excise. Is there, then, no means of hindering the hard drinker from getting drunk, while leaving the moderate drinker untouched ? There is, and this is
the one already partly adopted by the State of making his drink weaker. Wine may be a mocker, but it is strong drink that rages, and all the worst ills in a medical sense that arise from drink come not from taking too much of it, but in taking it too strong. No one ever gave himself delirium tremens on port or cham- pagne, and it is such a long time before the uric acid diseases which they are said to cause or aggravate impair any worker’s efficiency that they may safely be neglected “for the duration of the war.” Rob spirits and beer, then, of their strength, and you take away from them most of their power of inflicting evil on the worker. Nor is this all. By lessening the quantity of barley or sugar employed in their manufacture, you increase the food supply of the country; while as the quantity of taxable liquor is un- diminished by dilution, you hardly, if at all, affect the revenue derived from its sale. Dilution, then, or the putting of water in our sack, seems to be the appropriate remedy for the alcoholic’s
habit of taking more than is good for him. The Government have already made a stride along this path by permitting the dilution of spirits sold by the glass. How much further they should go
Is a question tor ex- perts, but there seems no reason why whisky and other ordinary spirits should be al- lowed to be sold at anything over 50 per cent. under proof. If this were extended to bottles, we should hear fewer stories than we do of working people buying bottles of whisky which they pawn and redeem one by one when they feel the need of an orgy. With beer the same object might be obtained by a tax graduated ac- cording to its alcoholic strength, or perhaps by a revival of the old malt tax. Thus should we Imi- tate the Greeks and Romans of classic times, who thought a man a drunkard if he took anything stronger than negus. With our Latin Allies, who drink hardly anything but light wines or cider ; and our German ene- mies, who, war scarcity notwithstanding, have not yet knocked off their lager – beer, we need not concern our- selves. F. L.