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Prohibition, in law, refers to any body of law having the effect of prohibiting or controlling the consumption of any particular substance. It usually means the prohibition of the manufacture, sale, transport, and import of alcoholic drinks. Prohibition laws rarely made drinking a crime, just the manufacture or selling of liquor.

Summary of Prohibition Movements and Laws

Prohibition is primarily a feature of 19th century law or later. Most outright, national prohibitions took place in the first half of the 20th century, viz.:

Period Nation-state
1920-33 United States of America
1914-25 Russia and the Soviet Union
1915-22 Iceland
1916-27 Norway
1919-32 Finland
1900-48 Prince Edward Island and elsewhere in Canada, though for shorter periods
ca. 1920-current (various starting points) Middle East, North Africa, Asia

History and Current State in Various Regions

United States

Main Article: Prohibition in the United States

Each state has its own rules on the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. Some states require liquor to be sold through state-owned and state-operated stores (examples are Alabama and Pennsylvania) or require a three-tiered system of distribution (manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer; Texas requires such).

Other common restrictions include when and where alcoholic beverages can be sold. Texas, for example, requires cities or counties to approve such sales (and require separate votes for beer and wine sales vs. liquor sales) and does not permit sales at certain times (beer and wine cannot be sold on Sunday before noon, liquor cannot be sold at all on Sunday) or in certain places (liquor stores must be physically separated from any other retail establishment on the premises, and when closed cannot sell any item, even items which can otherwise be legally sold at that time).

Russian Empire and Soviet Union

Scandinavia and other Nordic regions

Arab and other Muslim lands

South Asia

Southeast Asia




  • Blocker, Jack S. ed. Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History: An International Encyclopedia (2 vol 2003)

See also