Absinthe--Is Its History Relevant for Current Public Health?

Martijn Huisman; Johannes Brug; Johan Mackenbach


Int J Epidemiol. 2007;36(4):738-744. 

In This Article

Political and Economic Power of Absinthe Manufacturers and Tobacco Companies

It was with the industrialization that the production of absinthe and tobacco led large masses to become dependent users. Industrialization not only improved production methods so that huge quantities could be manufactured in less time, it led to important shifts in the command of resources such as wealth and political power. It made absinthe manufacturers and tobacco companies major players in the national -- and in the case of tobacco: global -- economy. Interestingly, this process worked out differently for absinthe manufacturers on the one hand, and tobacco companies on the other. Absinthe manufacturers found themselves beset not only by doctors and politicians, but also by the powerful wine industry, which felt threatened by absinthe's success. The wine industry had a much longer national tradition than did absinthe. Furthermore, wine generally was not regarded as being among the dangers of 'alcool', which in France at that time was taken to mean spirits, and therefore was not a target of the medical case as absinthe was.

Tobacco companies never had such a formidable rival (other than competition amongst themselves) and they seem to have access to substantial resources to battle against medical research and legislation. Just how powerful the tobacco industry has become is being brought under the intention of researchers through investigations of internal documents of tobacco companies like Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds and British American Tobacco. It has now become quite clear that these companies developed strategies to influence legislation at high political levels,[35,36] to subvert research on the health effects of tobacco and ETS,[37,38,39,40] and to target specific vulnerable groups in society through marketing campaigns.[23,24]


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.