Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Greggor Mattson
Clovis White

Committee Member(s)

Daphne John
Vujacic Veljko
Aaron Howell


Social problem, Prohibition, Alcohol, Tobacco, Oberlin, Anti-Saloon League


Oberlin students had lost interest in the prohibition and temperance cause by the time they became popular in the rest of America, particularly during the 1910s and 1920s when the Prohibition movement outside Oberlin was the fiercest. Meanwhile, the students' indifference toward alcohol was replaced by activism of another sort; the tobacco ban, which was enforced since the founding days of the town and college, was lifted and modified in the winter of 1918, two years before national Prohibition of alcohol.

From the theoretical framework of constructionist model of social problems, this paper examines how the rise of individualism and humanitarianism constructed alcohol as a public problem and deconstructed tobacco as one. I argue that alcohol was problematized by framing the saloon as a social and external evil that could not be resolved by individual self-control but only through collective social restrictions. On the other hand, the deconstruction of tobacco as a problem occurred because cigarette was framed as a harmless, individual preference that did not require institutional and political power to address it until the 1990s. By examining and interpreting real social phenomena with the theories of social problems, this paper adds to the knowledge by recognizing that those theories are applicable and valid, and thus can be used to interpret and understand why some social problems arise and fall.

Included in

Sociology Commons