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Bill proposed to lower drinking age to 19

It's expected to be heard in the State Senate Judiciary Committee next Thursday.

NEW ORLEANS – Imagine Bourbon Street with 19-year-olds legally allowed to drink.

It wouldn’t be a stretch for Nickol Santimy who says her 19-year-old can drink as long as she is present.

"I want them to feel comfortable, that they can do anything they want in their lives,” she said.

A new proposal set to be discussed in the state Senate would allow 19 and 20-year-olds to buy alcohol and drink unsupervised, after getting a certificate and parental consent.

"When you're a teenager, if you see a place where are all your friends are, you're gonna want to do what they're doing so if they're drinking you're gonna drink,” 20-year-old Justin Wallgren said.

The bill makes sense to Wallgren who says his parents let him drink on special occasions. He thinks the proposal could also help teach young people to avoid drinking and driving.

"If it is a forbidden fruit people tend to want it more and eat more of it,” Wallgren said.

Louisiana State Senator Eric LaFleur says his proposal is an extension of current law, aimed at reducing binge drinking among young people.

"It would not surprise me that bars, and clubs that are currently letting 18-year-olds in will say for now on, we're only letting in people who have made this commitment,” LaFleur said.

Dr. Peter Winsauer, a professor of Pharmacology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, says if research is considered, studies show for every year you delay an individual’s consumption of alcohol, the likelihood of them having an alcohol problem goes down.

"That notion that if I can just expose them earlier they're going to have less problems that all flies in the face of the existing data,” Dr. Winsauer said.

Senator LaFleur says 19-year-olds and older would have to learn about alcohol effects and consequences before being certified.

"It might be better,” Wallgren said.

The proposed bill would also make DWI punishments harsher for those with a certificate to drink. It’s expected to be heard in the State Senate Judiciary Committee next Thursday.

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