If children are taught that the most effective way of combating alcoholism is to insure the enforcement of existing laws and to profit from lessons taught by such enforcement; if children are taught that the strongest reasons for total abstinence are social, economic, and industrial rather than individual and physiological,—there is much to be gained and little to lose from telling them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about alcohol. To stimulate a child's imagination by untruths about alcohol is as vicious as to stimulate his body with alcohol. Whisky drinking does not always lead to drunkenness, to physical incapacity, to short life, or to obvious loss of vitality. Beer drinking is not always objected to by employers. Neither crime, poverty, immorality, lack of ambition, nor ignorance can always be traced to alcohol. On the contrary, it is unquestionably true that the majority of the nation's heroes have used alcoholics moderately or excessively for the greater part of their lives. It is probably true that among the hundred most eminent officials, pastors, merchants, professors, and scientists of to-day, the great majority of each class are moderate users of one or more forms of alcoholics. Overeating of potatoes or cake or meat, sleeping or working in ill-ventilated rooms, neglect of constipation, may occasion physiological and industrial injuries that are not only as grave in themselves as the evils of moderate drinking, but, in addition, actually tempt to moderate drinking.
All of this can be safely admitted, because whether parents and teachers admit it or deny it, children by observation and by reading will become convinced that up to the year 1908 the noblest and the most successful men of America, as well as the most depraved and least successful, have used alcoholics. To be candid enough to admit this enables us to gain a hold upon the confidence and the intelligence of children and youth that will strengthen our arguments, based upon social and industrial as well as physiological grounds, against running the risks that are inevitably incurred by even the moderate use of alcohol.
Other things being equal, the same man will do better work without alcohol than with alcohol; the same athlete will be stronger and more alert without alcohol than with alcohol; the clerk or lawyer or teacher will win promotion earlier without alcohol than with alcohol; man or woman will grow old quicker with than without alcohol. Other things being equal, a man of fifty will have greater confidence in a total abstainer than in a man of identical capacity who uses alcohol moderately; a mother will give better vitality and better care to her children without than with alcohol; a policeman or fireman or stenographer is more apt to win promotion without than with alcohol. Whatever the physical ailment, there is in every instance a better remedy for an acute trouble, and infinitely better remedies for deep-seated troubles, than alcoholics.
The percentage of failure to use alcoholics moderately is so high, the uncertainty as to a particular individual's ability to drink moderately is so great, as to lead certain insurance companies, first, to give preference to men who never use alcoholics, and later, to refuse to insure moderate drinkers. Life insurance companies have the general rule that habitual drinkers are bad risks, as the alcohol habit is prejudicial to health and longevity; but they have no means of studying the risk of moderate drinkers, because, except where alcohol has already left a permanent impression upon the system, the indications are by no means such as to enable the medical examiner to trace its existence with certainty. For this reason the life insurance companies have little effect in preventing alcoholism. Though they are agreed that habitual drinkers ought to be declined altogether, only a few companies have taken the decided stand of declining them. "Habitual drinkers, if not too excessive, are admitted into the general class where the expected mortality, according to the experience of the Pennsylvania Mutual Life Insurance Company, is 80 per cent, as against 56 per cent for the temperate class. Though it is only necessary to look over the death losses presented each day to see that intemperance in the use of liquors, as shown by cirrhosis of the liver, Bright's disease, diseases of the heart, brain, and nervous system, is the cause of a large proportion of the deaths, these companies prefer to grade the premiums accordingly rather than to decline habitual drinkers altogether. While this is partly due to the difficulty and expense of diagnosis, it is more probably due to an objection to take a definite stand on the temperance question."