In a day of heightened concern over environmental abuses, drug abuse, and tobacco use, the almost nonchalant attitude of the public toward the deadliest problem of all is tragically incongruous. For a nation that professes great interest in most of the ills that offer even a remote threat to human life, the indifference toward the proven killer alcohol is curious indeed.

Let a deodorant be shown to contain some ingredient that appears to produce cancer in mice, and it is likely to be forced off the market by prompt government action.

After the Surgeon General’s report that smoking is injurious to health, laws were passed requiring solemn warnings in cigarette advertising and on every package of cigarettes. Radio and TV spots paid for by federal funds encourage smokers to stop. The Congress ponders legislation designed to put tobacco companies out of business.

But let it be shown that approximately nine million Americans are excessive drinkers, that an alcoholic’s lifespan is shortened by ten to twelve years, that at least half of the 55,500 automobile deaths per year are directly traceable to drinking, that three-fourths of all prison inmates committed their crimes after drinking, that alcohol is now in first place on the teen-age drug-abuse scene—let all these grim statistics be cited, and most people simply shrug their shoulders and turn their attention to something else.

A few years ago the drug thalidomide was found to be responsible for serious birth defects. A horrified world reacted promptly. More recently, a group of doctors at the University of Washington discovered a consistent pattern of serious birth defects among children born to alcoholic mothers—eight out of eight were affected. The news appeared in one or two ...

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