Drinking Age - Issue Summary

Should New Hampshire lower the drinking age?

drinking ageBy: LFDA Editor

Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, which imposed a 10 percent reduction in federal highway funds on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21.

All 50 states abide by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.  However, New Hampshire has considered lowering the drinking age as recently as 2009.

According to the Amethyst Initiative, a national coalition of college presidents in favor of lowering the drinking age:

  • Twenty-one is not working
  • A culture of dangerous, clandestine “binge-drinking”—often conducted off-campus—has developed.
  • Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.
  • Adults under 21 are deemed capable of voting, signing contracts, serving on juries and enlisting in the military, but are told they are not mature enough to have a beer.

Arguments against lowering the drinking age include:

  • Brain development continues through the age of 21, and may be disrupted by alcohol consumption.
  • Some studies have found an association between higher drinking age and lower rates of traffic accidents.
  • If 18 year-olds are allowed to buy alcohol, they will become suppliers for even younger adolescents.
  • State laws often restrict other activities to adults over 21, including casino gambling, purchasing a handgun, adopting a child, and renting a car.

For addition pros and cons on raising the drinking age, check out this report compiled by a state government class at UNH.

2015 Legislation

Rep. Robert Cushing is the primary sponsor of HB 585, a 2015 bill that would add to the fine for underage drinking.  HB 585 imposes a penalty assessment of $5 or 10%, whichever is greater, on all fines or penalties imposed by a court or the Liquor Commission for violations to the alcohol beverage laws.  The most common violation is for underage drinking, which carries a minimum fine of $300; the penalty assessment for that would then be $30.  The penalty assessments would be divided equally among the Victims’ Assistance Fund, the Special Fund for Domestic Violence Programs, and the Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Treatment Fund.

HB 585 is still being studied in committee.

2014 Legislation

Rep. J.R. Hoell (D-Dunbarton) sponsored HB 1486, a 2014 bill that decreases the fine for underage drinking from $300 to $100 on first offense and from $600 to $300 on a subsequent offense.  The House killed that bill February 12, 2014.

Rep. Carol McGuire (R-Epsom) sponsored HB 1436, a 2014 bill that exempts certain individuals under age 21 from the law against unlawful possession (not consumption) of alcohol: individuals possessing alcohol for medical or religious reasons, and individuals between 18 and 21 in a place where alcohol is not sold.  The House voted to table that bill February 19, 2014.

Do you think the state should lower the drinking age?

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Take Action

If you are interested in the drinking age in NH and want to take action here are some choices:

  • If you are new to contacting your government, please visit our page on How to Take Action.

  • Contact one of the organizations listed in Learn More. These groups represent the pro or con positions of issues.

  • Contact a government official as follows:

1. Contact members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives or the New Hampshire Senate

2. Give your opinion to Governor Maggie Hassan.

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Learn More/Take Action

Do you think the drinking age should be lowered or not?  Whatever your thoughts are, we urge you to make your voice heard. See the "Learn More/Take Action" section on this page for more information.

Issue Status

The House last debated lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 in 2009, but a proposal to do so failed.

Rep. Robert Cushing is the primary sponsor of HB 585, a 2015 bill that would add to the fine for underage drinking.  That bill is still being studied in committee.