liquor laws, legislation designed to restrict, regulate, or totally abolish the manufacture, sale, and use of alcoholic beverages. The passage of liquor laws has been prompted chiefly by the desire to prevent immoderate use of intoxicants, but sometimes also by the need to raise revenue. Direct taxation and license requirements are among the oldest methods of regulating the sale of liquor. With the license system the state can exercise extensive regulatory power by revoking permits upon violation of rules and by restricting licenses, although the system is vulnerable to political corruption. Licensing has been practiced most extensively and severely in Great Britain (especially since 1904), where regulation of the public house has resulted in the decrease of liquor consumption. Licenses are also used in the United States, and there are general regulatory provisions such as hours of closing and consumption privileges. National prohibition of the manufacture and sale of liquor received its major test in the United States from 1919 to 1933. Many states have granted counties and municipalities a local option to restrict or abolish by vote the sale of liquor. Several states have monopolies of retail distribution, and a similar system prevails in most of Canada. Limitation of profits on the manufacture of liquors was begun in Sweden (1865) with the Göteborg licensing system, which restricts both production and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Norway and Finland have variations of this plan. A state monopoly of vodka manufacture was instituted (1894) in Russia for reasons of public finance and after a period of prohibition during World War I was restored by the Soviet Union. In France and other Latin countries where wine making is an important industry and where distilled liquors are less heavily consumed, few government restrictions have been imposed other than stringent labeling laws. Conditions are similar in Germany and other countries where malt liquors have wider use than spirits.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.