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The so called “hour of power” bill is as noble as it is useless.

The “hour of power” is a game for newly turned 21 year olds to drink from midnight on their birthday until bars close at 1 or 2 am. LB 294 would outlaw serving these 21 year olds on the night of their birthday. Bars would no longer serve these individuals, but would that really stop the binge drinking.

A recent editorial suggested the Nebraska Legislature should kill the “hour of power” as fast and as dead as it can. Perhaps the Legislature should do just that, but LB 294 is hardly an effective or permanent solution. Attempting to legislate away a problem like binge drinking is about as effective as trying to turn off a garden hose by putting your hand over the end. Instead of writing new laws, families need to start addressing alcohol at home through education, not punishment.

Drinking is a habit, and one that has remained constant for generations. Families need to focus on establishing good habits in their children. One way to start it to let your son or daughter have a small drink with dinner. At home children can learn to respect alcohol, instead of experiencing that first drink as part of an hour of shots at a bar. Parents can answer important questions about the effects of alcohol consumption, which is urgent given the fact 72 percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol.

Legislating and enforcing a new law is a slow, arduous process. Thinking up a drinking game is a short one. The number of games aimed at mindless alcohol consumption is barely finite, and I’d be willing to bet it increases every day. Lawmakers that think they can eradicate this problem by eliminating each drinking game need to sober up.

These newly 21 year olds are obviously being accompanied by “of age” friends to play this game. So this may remove the game from the bar, but would likely just relocate it to someone’s home. From what I’ve seen there are a lot more drinking games played in houses around town than in bars. Plus, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to get obnoxiously drunk at home than it is at the bar.

It is irresponsible to launch 21 year olds into binge drinking on the first night it’s legal. But it’s not any more irresponsible than doing the same thing the second or third night a person is of drinking age.

What’s really irresponsible is to think binge drinking is a problem that can be solved after a person turns 21. At 21 most people are away from home at college or another pursuit. They learn to drink surrounded by peers who are hardly any more experienced.

If the topic of drinking is broached at a younger age, 21 year olds won’t be forced to learn by trial and error; A process that sent 190,000 persons under 21 to the emergency room in 2008. Children need to be taught to understand and respect alcohol at a younger age and ideally at home, by their families. Otherwise they will have plenty of time to learn once they are out on their own.