Tabloid headlines attack the binge drinking of young women. Debates about the classification of cannabis continue, while major public health campaigns seek to reduce and ultimately eliminate smoking through health warnings and legislation. But the history of public health is not a simple one of changing attitudes resulting from increased medical knowledge, though that has played a key role, for instance since the identification of the link between smoking and lung cancer. As Virginia Berridge shows in this fascinating exploration, attitudes to public health, and efforts to change it, have historically been driven by social, cultural, political, and economic and industrial factors, as well as advances in science. They have resulted in different responses to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco at different times, in different parts of the world. Opium dens in London, temperance and prohibition movements, the appearance of new recreational drugs in the 20th century, the changing attitudes to smoking: by taking us through such examples, moulded by socio-economic and political forces, including the growing power of pharmaceutical companies, Berridge illuminates current debates. While our medical knowledge has advanced, other factors help shape our responses, as they have done in the past.