The last twenty years have seen the emergence of a new discourse on drinking problems. The new discourse is associated with the new public health perspective on alcohol which is more ambitious than previous thinking, both in the way it conceives of the problem and the wide ranging measures it advocates to combat them. It calls for considerable expansion of operations and a coordinated, multi-sectoral programme of action. Some of the more recent elaborations of this perspective have been presented in the spate of Royal College reports on Alcohol Misuse (Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1986; Royal College of Physicians, 1987; Royal College of General Practitioners, 1986) and in recent World Health Organisation literature (WHO, 1981). It is argued here that these developments should be seen as part of broader shifts in our social regulation and control mechanisms; a move favouring more dispersed, nonsegregative and community-based approaches. Such mechanisms, which are often introduced for humanitarian reasons, have significantly extended previous systems of control. This paper plots the emergence of a public health perspective on alcohol misuse and situates it within broader developments in both crime prevention and health fields. Some of the recently advocated measures are considered as mechanisms of drinking discipline. Finally, some conclusions are drawn for contemporary policy on alcohol use and misuse.