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Legalise it: Prohibition's repeal and its unintended impact on public health

March 18, 2021

Professors David Jacks, Krishna Pendakur, and Hitoshi Shigeoka recently penned an article on VoxEU summarizing their research examining Prohibition repeal in 1930s America and its unintended impact on public health. In their research, the faculty members explored the link between repeal and infant mortality rates as well as urban mortality rates, which shed a light on some of the unanticipated health outcomes. 

The year 2020 marked the centenary of Prohibition, under which the production and sale of alcohol in the US was banned for nearly 14 years. Though it required an unprecedented intervention into the nation’s economic and social fabric, there has been little quantitative analysis of Prohibition’s impact on public health. This column presents new research suggesting that a substantial increase in infant mortality followed the repeal of Prohibition in the 1930s – an unanticipated, negative health outcome worth considering as debates resume over the legalisation of cannabis and other drugs.