The minimum drinking age in New Hampshire is 21. There is only one exception to this rule: an underage person cannot be prosecuted for drinking if they're caught while seeking medical help for someone suffering from an alcohol overdose.
Breaking the drinking law can lead to a fine of $300 for a first offense and $600 for a second offense.
Federal influence over state drinking laws
Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, which imposed a 10 percent reduction in federal highway funds on any state that allowed minors under age 21 to purchase alcohol or possess it in public. However, the law did not include consumption of alcohol by minors under the following circumstances:
- Drinking in private establishments (but not privately-owned businesses that are open to the public, such as a typical restaurant or bar)
- Drinking for medical purposes
- Drinking for religious purposes
- Handling, dispensing or transporting alcohol as part of one's job
All 50 states have a general minimum drinking age of 21, but some have taken advantage of these exceptions to allow minors to drink under certain conditions, such as:
- On private property (where alcohol is not sold), with or without the consent of a parent or guardian
- For educational purposes, such as training at culinary school
- At bars or restaurants with the approval of a parent or guardian
Recent attempts to change NH drinking law
New Hampshire has considered lowering the drinking age as recently as 2009, when a proposal to lower the legal age from 21 to 18 died in the House.
More recently, an attempt to allow minors aged 18-20 to drink while in the presence of a responsible adult aged over 21 was shot down.
"NH should lower the drinking age."
- 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.
The preceding arguments were made by the Amethyst Initiative, a national coalition of college presidents in favor of lowering the drinking age.
"NH should not lower the drinking age."
- 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.