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Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?

By   /   June 8, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 42 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

Keith Murphy runs Murphy’s Taproom in Manchester, New Hampshire, but he’s not allowed to serve certain beers to his customers.

That’s because even freedom-loving New Hampshire is not totally free from the power of the nanny state. There, beer and other alcoholic beverages with labels depicting pictures of babies or children are forbidden.

Image via Flickr (Mike Mozart)

ENCOURAGING KIDS TO EAT OATMEAL: The label of Founders’ Breakfast Stout is illegal in the state of New Hampshire.

The offending beer in this case? Breakfast Stout, made by the Founders Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The label on the bottle shows a chubby youngster chowing down on a bowl of oatmeal — not drinking beer, by the way.

Murphy sells the beer from the tap (using a pull that doesn’t bear the image of a little tyke), but he can’t sell bottles of the beer to customers or take it home for himself.

“I sell a million dollars of beer a year and it breaks my heart that I can’t take this home,” Murphy told WMUR-9 TV earlier this year.

Bar owners across the country are used to dealing with odd, arcane and arbitrary state laws when it comes to what they can and cannot sell. But Murphy had an advantage that most other people in his situation do not.

He happens to be one of the 424 members of New Hampshire’s state Legislature.

Image via Wiki Commons

THE NANNY GOVERNOR: Gov. Maggie Hassan vetoed the bill that would have ended New Hampshire’s ban on babies on bottles.

Seizing the opportunity, Murphy, R-Bedford, championed a bill to remove the nonsense prohibition and allow the people of New Hampshire to enjoy the delicious Founders’ Breakfast Stout. The bill sailed through both chambers of the Legislature in the span of a few weeks and reached the desk of Gov. Maggie Hassan.

That’s when the nanny struck.

Hassan, a Democrat, vetoed the bill last week. She says allowing children to be depicted on beer bottles will encourage children to start drinking.

“Substance misuse, including alcohol misuse, continues to be one of the major public health and safety challenges facing us as a state,” Hassan said in her veto message. “Moreover, statistics suggest that New Hampshire has among the highest rates of underage drinking in the country.”

Image via Flickr (Doug / Shyzaboy)

SMUTTYNOSE IS OKAY: A different beer with a picture of a baby on the label, but this one is fine in New Hampshire.

If the state already has one of the highest rates of underage drinking in the country, it would seem the children-on-beer-labels ban isn’t really working, no?

Leaving that aside, Murphy’s bill wouldn’t have given carte blanche to Big Booze to start marketing to children in the Granite State. All labels still would have to be approved by the New Hampshire Liquor Commission — the only difference would be the commission would not be automatically required to block any depictions of children.

For example, the commission could still block a label with a kid drinking an actual beer, as opposed to, you know, a kid eating a bowl of oatmeal — something that would be totally legal if it was plastered on the front of a cereal box.

The Liquor Commission was opposed to Murphy’s bill from the start (begging the question: should bureaucratic institutions take positions on legislation?) and appears to have swayed the governor’s view.

Murphy told WMUR last week he sees the veto as executive overreach. He also pointed out neighboring states like Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine all allow the beer to be sold — we’d add that those states also have lower rates of underage drinking than New Hampshire, just to put one more hole in Hassan’s faulty logic.

There also seems to be a bit of protectionism at play here. Bottles of Baltic Porter, made by the fine folks at Smutteynose Brewing Company in Hampton, New Hampshire, have a label that includes a depiction of Father Time holding a baby — appropriate, since the beer is released around New Year’s.

But bottles of Baltic Porter, Murphy says, are legal to be sold in the state.

Part of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week
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  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
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  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
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  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
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Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed listicle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87 and reach him at [email protected]