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N.H. considering dropping the legal drinking age

Posted at 9:20 AM, Jan 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-06 12:20:07-05

It has been nearly three decades since people aged 18 to 20 could drink in New Hampshire, but if one proposal passes, young adults in the Granite State could be legally permitted to drink beer and wine.

The law would allow young adults aged 18, 19 or 20 to drink “while in the presence of responsible adults who are over 21.”

House Bill 1606 states that the goal of the legislation it to tackle a major health problem.

“This general court makes a finding that excessive consumption of alcohol by those under the age of 21 is a major health problem and contributes to automotive accidents and alcohol poisoning,” as stated in the legislation.

Many states allowed adults aged 18 and older to drink through the 1970s, but pressure from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving caused many states to make the legal drinking age 21. In 1984, the federal government enacted the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which meant jurisdictions that failed to raise the minimum drinking age to 21 would not be eligible for federal highway funding.

The legal drinking age in New Hampshire was raised to 21 in 1985 in response to the federal legislation.

While the legal drinking age has been debated for years, evidence tends to suggest that keeping the legal drinking age at 21 will result in fewer deaths.

Joint researchers Toben Nelson from the University of Minnesota and Henry Wechsler from Harvard University concluded that a lower drinking age would cause more issues.

“The weight of the scientific evidence, evaluated by many experts and government agencies, demonstrates that the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years is effective public policy for reducing underage drinking and preventing the negative consequences that can result from underage drinking,” the study said.

“The evidence suggests that making alcohol more available by reducing the minimum legal drinking age to 18 years will lead to an increase in drinking and related harms,” the study continues. “The evidence shows instead that strengthening enforcement and establishing policies to support the existing minimum legal drinking age are effective approaches to lower alcohol-related morbidity and mortality among youths.”

The legislation would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.