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When states push alcohol

The holiday marketing of degradation is bad enough in the hands of the commercial liquor interests. When practiced by government authorities, it leaves the notion of public responsibility in an alcoholic blur. The latest extreme of this sort in our vicinity is New Hampshire's offer of free samples to entice people to buy more high-priced items at its state-run liquor stores.

It is an ironic footnote to the state's pleas for federal money so that all US taxpayers can help pay for stepped-up highway patrols to check drunken driving in New Hampshire. Not to mention a certain disparity between reported liquor profits of $44 million a year and the more than $200 million a year that alcohol abuse is estimated to cost the state.

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But the cash losses from alcohol are never the main reason to deplore each new sales job on a drug whose role in physical and moral degeneration should be reason enough. New Hampshire officials argue that there's not enough alcohol in the little free tastes to endanger anyone's safety or sobriety. They just want people to try it and like it and buy it. Nobody is forced to try, or buy, or, for that matter, destroy himself.

But can a public employee serve those sips without wondering if it is really the right thing to do? It is more than a question of taste.

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