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Omaha non-profit opposes LB258

OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska) – Over the past decade, Project Extra Mile officials have noticed a decrease in the number of underage youths who become addicted to alcohol. Now they say the pandemic has reversed that trend.

“It has really increased since the pandemic due to lockdown and lack of school, boredom, so it is growing again,” said Chris Wagner, executive director of Project Extra Mile.

Wagner is concerned that these numbers could continue to rise if LB258 becomes law.

The bill was introduced by Nebraska Senator John Lowe of Kearny. LB258 is not very complex in its formulation. It simply crosses “almost beer” off the list of what the state considers beer, essentially deregulating what the state already regulates.

“[It will] make it the same as water or soda and let kids of all ages buy it,” Wagner said. “We’re really concerned that this will lead to young people getting a taste for alcohol and beer, wanting to buy this product and get their hands on it before they’re 21.”

“Almost beer” is a beer with an alcohol content of 0.5% by volume – very low alcohol content.

Members of the Nebraska Alcohol Control Commission have asked the governor and state legislators, in addition to nearly beer, to give the commission the power to regulate soft drinks and wine because of their growing popularity.

Wagner says a deregulation of near-beer would draw controversy because in Nebraska, minors are prohibited from drinking any alcohol.

“We have a zero-tolerance law in Nebraska, so if these young people drank enough to exceed that 0.02 [blood alcohol level] restrict and then drive and be stopped, they would be breaking the law,” Wagner said.

Wagner says Project Extra Mile agrees with the Alcohol Control Commission that nearly all beer, liquor and wine should be regulated by the state.

“Anything that looks like alcohol, tastes like alcohol, smells like alcohol, should be treated as alcohol,” Wagner said.

6 News reached out to Senator Lowe’s office for comment on his bill. We didn’t get a response.

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