Reducing birthday binge drinking

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January 25th, 2011

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Possible legislation would curb 21st birthday binge drinking. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

Lincoln, NE – Cutting down on binge drinking when young people turn 21 is the goal of a bill heard Monday by a legislative committee. But, some question if the approach being considered would be fair, or effective.

Right now, on the day someone turns 21, he or she can then go to a bar and drink until closing time at 1 or 2 a.m. – a time commonly called the “hour of power.” Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber says that can lead to peer pressure to try and drink as much as possible in a short time.

“Any of you who know me know that I am not a prohibitionist by any means,” said Sen. Karpisek, “However, I am concerned about someone just turning 21 years of age, who shouldn’t legally be used to consuming alcohol, going out at 12:01a.m. and probably in 45 minutes, because of last call, trying to consume 21 shots of alcohol, which is the rite of passage.”

To try and prevent that, Karpisek is proposing to prohibit bars from serving people turning 21 until 6 a.m. that next morning. Lincoln bar owner Troy Falk supports that idea, saying his bar already follows the practice. He says delaying until the next day encourages stretching things out and is safer. But Sen. Tyson Larson of O’Neill suggests the proposal flies in the face of state law which makes drinking legal at age 21.

Sen. Russ Karpisek proposes a 6 a.m. start time for those turning 21. (Photo courtesy of Nebraska Legislature)

“If you’re legally able to consume and buy alcohol, why should we as a body stop that individual’s right? If you want to stop that, the age should be 21 and six hours, not 21,” said Larson.

And Jim Moylan, lobbyist for the Nebraska Licensed Beverage Association, pointed out that even if the bill passes, young people would still be able to buy alcohol in retail stores after midnight. The General Affairs Committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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