January 28, 1912: New York Times headline—The Drinking Cup Law: It is Now in Force in 24 States. “The fact that in one year the common drinking cup has been abolished by law in twenty-four States is commented upon as follows in the Journal of the American Medical Association:
Public sentiment is a strange and illusive force. It sometimes fails to respond, in spite of every effort to arouse its interest in a worthy case. Again, it suddenly asserts itself without any known reason. One of the strangest of recent manifestations of this force of public sentiment is the present crusade against the common drinking cup. For years physicians and sanitarians have urged the danger and the filthiness of common drinking utensils. With few exceptions their words seemed to fall on deaf ears. The public, apparently, was not interested. But suddenly, without any manifest reason, the point of saturation seemed to be reached. Crystallization of public opinion began. States began to enact laws, and cities to pass ordinances abolishing the common drinking cup in all public places. State after State took it up. There was no concerted movement; there was scarcely any organization behind it; there was little special effort needed.
The people evidently had made up their minds that common drinking cups were bad and must go. So they have abolished them in at least twenty-four States in a little more than one year’s time. These States are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Doubtless the other States will act as soon as they have an opportunity.
The moral is: Saturate the public with facts, and when the people are convinced, they will act.”
Commentary: I wish it were that easy. Generally, the public resists hearing about facts related to public health. However, clearly a “tipping point” of some sort was reached in the public’s consciousness. The action of the states clearly led to the federal action later in 1912. On October 30, 2012, we observed the 100th anniversary of the first federal drinking water regulation, which was adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department that prohibited the use of the common drinking cup on interstate carriers. Seven articles in my blog safedrinkingwaterdotcom provided a countdown to the anniversary date.