1729 - 1743 CE
British Parliament takes action against gin

In 1729 the British Parliament decided it must curb the gin craze. The first critics of the gin craze had been the brewers who in 1726 wrote a satirical pamphlet about a scuffle between Swell-gut (a brewer) and Scorch-gut (a gin distiller) whose "damn’d devil’s piss burnt out the entrails of three-fourth’s of the King’s subjects.” The distillers had replied "“the Landed Gentleman must be sensible the distillers work for him, since the distilling trade in and about London only, consumes about 200,000 quarters of corn, and that corn necessarily employs 100,000 acres of land.” Economic interests were obviously at stake.

The 1729 Gin Act restricted retail sales of gin to licensed premises and set a high price for licenses. These measures were by and large ignored.

In 1733, Parliament passed a new Gin Act that took a liberal approach. There was a grain surplus once again. Taxes on distillation were reduced, and export subsidies were introduced along with various petty restrictions on unlicensed gin sellers. Consumption again went up, and horror stories were widely reported in the press.

In 1736, a new act introduced large fines for home distilling and raised the license fee for retailing spirits. It relied on informers for enforcement. The new act had as little effect as its predecessors, and the London crowds chanted, "No gin, no king," referring to the unpopular George II. Despite increasingly harsh measures by the government to control gin consumption, nothing much changed for the next seven years.

Source: Gately. (2008). Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. Penguin.

Drugs: Alcohol
Regions: UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)
Topics: Health and social problems, Taxation and regulation