N.H. Weighs High Costs of Underage Drinking

June 9, 2004

Underage drinking costs the state of New Hampshire more than $200 million a year in crashes, property damage and treatment, according to state officials. Many politicians and authorities say they are fed-up and are collaborating on a crack down on underage drinking this summer.

New enforcement efforts, public awareness campaigns, a party host law, and a statewide strategy group are all targeting the problem.

State officials estimate underage drinkers consumed 17.5 percent of all alcohol sold in New Hampshire in 2001 a total of $95 million in sales. They estimate 63,000 young people under 21 drink every year.

Yet Aidan Moore, chief of the State Liquor Commissions enforcement bureau, contends the state is “a real leader” in addressing underage drinking.

New Hampshire has already enacted many laws to reduce underage alcohol access. Among them: Retail compliance checks, keg registration, zero tolerance DWI laws for those under 21, and, new this spring, criminal sanctions for those who host underage drinking parties.

And authorities aren’t finished.

Police departments are stepping up compliance checks and enforcement efforts this summer. Portsmouth police will reward pizza delivery people and hotel clerks who report underage drinking parties. Lyndeborough police are looking into acquiring off-road vehicles to flush out drinking parties in wooded areas.

The liquor commission also plans to enlist the help of young volunteers to put stickers on 30-packs of beer, now the best-selling packaging in New Hampshire.

The campaign is called Sticker Shock; the point is to remind adults if they provide alcohol to anyone under 21 they can face up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines.

Moore said only 30 percent of youngsters who illegally obtain alcohol in New Hampshire do so from retailers; the rest get it through adults.

Tom Burke, owner of Bunnys Superette in Manchester, supports the campaign. Burke believes there’s a different, more dangerous mentality among today’s teenagers.

“When I was a kid, kids would go out and drink because it was illegal, you weren’t supposed to do it,” he said. “These young people seem to binge drink. They drink for the whole purpose of getting drunk.”

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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