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Liquor ads on NH billboards not happening after Senate committee split
Senate Bill 329 received initial approval from the full Senate on Feb. 6 and was passed to the finance committee for a review of potential costs or financial benefit to the state.
The sponsor, state Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, told the panel that current law banning billboard advertising of alcoholic beverages is unconstitutional because it discriminates against the freedom of speech of certain businesses in how they may advertise their products.
New Hampshire is the only state in the nation that forbids alcoholic beverage advertising on billboards. The bill is modeled after other states’ laws by forbidding “brand” advertising on any billboard within 500 feet of a school.
Tim Rourke, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment, said the state has the third-highest alcohol consumption rate in the country and noted abuse results in a high cost to state and local governments.
Rourke said the commission opposes the bill. A spokesman for Gov. Maggie Hassan said she has not yet taken a position on it, however, and will review it.
Valerie Morgan of the state Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services, said 33.5 percent of young Granite Staters age 12 to 20 have tried alcohol, as compared to a national average of 25.6 percent.
John Mahoney, a sales representative for CBS Outdoor, a major owner of billboards in New Hampshire and nationally, said it is a freedom of speech issue.
But Tricia Lucas of the youth-oriented anti-drug abuse program New Futures said she expects the large corporate distilleries will be the major advertisers, “Maker’s Mark, flavored Vodka, not the small businesses in New Hampshire.”
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