Question - "In the Wealth of Nations on pages 525-526, Adam Smith states '... the cheapness of wine seems to be a cause, not of drunkenness, but of sobriety.' Why is this a common vice in countries/societal classes where liquor is expensive and not a problem with countries that produce or classes that can easily afford it?
I've read this a few times. Smith seems to give good examples but not so much as to why it is so."
Response - Adam Smith identifies the justification for his observation of relative drunkenness when he states on page 525 (1994 Modern Library Edition), "People are seldom guilty of excess in what is their daily fare."
He wasn't so much making a statistically supported statement as he was voicing a general observation of human nature.
A similar example could be the way many Americans treat food during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many I personally know (and, I'd wager, many you personally know as well) have even stated vocally that, since it is Thanksgiving (or Christmas) after all, they can be excused for eating more than usual. The fact that many foods are more available during these times than others (egg nog, pumpkin pie, etc.) may also contribute.
Not many (if any) 'overconsume' peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for example, or other comparably pedestrian meal options that are relatively cheap to create, easy to obtain and possess no significant ties to any kind of holiday emotions.