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Drinking-age bill for military may cost Alaska

| Thursday, April 7, 2011

JUNEAU -- Alaska is the latest state to weigh in on a long-running argument: If you're old enough to fight anddie for your country, you should be old enough to drink a beer.

An Alaska lawmaker who served in Vietnam is pushing a bill that would allow active-duty service members under 21 to drink alcohol as long as they could produce an armed forces identification card. Those under 19 -- Alaska's smoking age -- would be allowed to buy tobacco products.

"It's not fair that one guy in a fox hole can go home and have a beer while another guy in the fox hole can't," said GOP Rep. Bob Lynn. "It's not about drinking; it's not about smoking -- it's about equality."

But Lynn's bill has received a cool reception from the state's armed forces commanders, who worry it would spur unhealthy behavior in a military that wants to reduce smoking and drinking.

And if the bill passes, the state stands to lose at least $17 million in federal highway funding, state transportation officials say, because Alaska would be in violation of the national minimum drinking age statute.

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