Legal drinking age


Legal drinking age

Laws about the legal drinking age cover a wide range of issues and behaviours, addressing when and where alcohol can be consumed. The minimum age alcohol can be legally consumed can be different to the age when it can be purchased. These laws vary among different countries and many laws have exemptions or special circumstances. Most laws apply only to drinking alcohol in a public places, with alcohol consumption in the home being mostly unregulated. Some countries also have different age limits for different types of alcoholic drinks.[1]

The United Kingdom is the only country that has a minimum legal age for drinking alcohol in a home.[1] Some Islamic nations prohibit Muslims, or both Muslims and non-Muslims, from drinking alcohol at any age. In some countries, it is not illegal for minors to drink alcohol but the alcohol can be seized without compensation. In some cases, it is illegal to sell or give alcohol to minors. The following list indicates the age of the person to whom it is legal to consume and purchase alcohol.

Contents

Africa

Country/region De jure Notes
Drinking age[clarification needed] Purchase age
 Algeria 18[2]
 Angola None
 Botswana 18[2]
 Burundi 18[2] No limit if accompanied by parents.
 Cameroon 18[2] 21[2] 18 on the premises, 21 off the premises
 Cape Verde 18[2]
 Central African Republic 18[2]
 Comoros None[2]
 Egypt 18 (beer), 21 (wine/spirits)[2][3]
 Equatorial Guinea None[2]
 Eritrea 18[2]
 Ethiopia 18[2]
 Gabon 18[2] Illegal for Muslims
 Gambia 18[2] Illegal for Muslims
 Ghana 18[4]
 Guinea-Bissau None[2]
 Kenya 18[2]
 Lesotho 18[2]
 Libya Illegal[2]
 Malawi 18[4]
 Mauritius 18[2]
 Morocco None[5] 16[5]
 Mozambique 18[2]
 Namibia 18[2]
 Niger 18[2]
 Nigeria 18[2]
 Republic of the Congo 18[2]
 Rwanda 18[2]
 Seychelles 18[2]
 South Africa 18[2]
 Swaziland None[2] 18[2]
 Sudan 16[2] Illegal for Muslims
 Togo None[2]
 Uganda 18[2]
 Tunisia 18[2]
 Zambia 18[2]
 Zimbabwe 18[2]

Americas

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age[clarification needed] Purchase age
 Argentina 18[2][6]
 Bahamas 18[2]
 Belize 18[2]
 Bermuda 18[2]
 Bolivia 18[2]
 Brazil 18[2]
 Canada 18[7] Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, but underage drinking by 16-17 year olds under parental supervision is permitted in Manitoba [8] and under parental supervision in a residence or a temporary residence in Alberta[9]
19[7] In Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut, the legal drinking age is 19. Underage drinking under parental supervision is permitted, with some restrictions, on one's own property in the provinces of New Brunswick[10] and Ontario[11] and at home in the provinces of Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.[1] In British Columbia, only children of the supervising parents, not any other minors such as guests, are allowed underage drinking. Consumption of alcohol in another person's home is subject to other laws.[12]
 Chile 18[2] The minimum age is 18 for buying and consuming alcohol. Selling alcohol to a minor may attract a fine. One must provide identification upon request. Residents of Chile over the age of 18 must carry their Cédula de Identidad (Chilean ID card) issued by the Civil Registry and Identification Service at all times.
 Colombia 18[2]
 Costa Rica 18[2]
 Cuba None[2] 18[2]
 Dominican Republic 18[2]
 Ecuador 18[2]
 El Salvador 18[2]
 Guatemala 18[2]
 Guyana 18[2]
 Haiti 16[2]
 Honduras 18[13]
 Jamaica None[2] 16[2]
 Mexico 18[2]
 Nicaragua 19[2]
 Panama 18[2]
 Paraguay 20[2]
 Peru 18[2]
 Puerto Rico 18[14]
 Trinidad and Tobago 18[2]
 United States
(50 states and integral territories)
21[2] The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 withholds revenue from states that allow the purchase of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21. Prior to the effective date of that Act, the drinking age varied from state to state. Some states do not allow those under the legal drinking age to be present in liquor stores or in bars (usually, the difference between a bar and a restaurant is that food is served only in the latter). Contrary to popular belief, since the act went into law, only a few states prohibit minors and young adults from consuming alcohol in private settings. As of January 1, 2010, 15 states and the District of Columbia ban underage consumption outright, 17 states do not ban underage consumption, and the remaining 18 states have family member and/or location exceptions to their underage consumption laws.

Federal law explicitly provides for religious, medical, employment and private club possession exceptions; as of 2005, 31 states have family member and/or location exceptions to their underage possession laws. However, non-alcoholic beer in many (but not all) states, such as Idaho, Texas, and Maryland, is considered legal for minors (those under the age of 21).[15]

By a judge's ruling, South Carolina appears to allow the possession and consumption of alcohol by those 18 to 20 years of age, but a circuit court judge said otherwise.[16]

Some U.S. States have legislation that make providing to and possession of alcohol by minors (persons under 21) a gross misdemeanor with a potential of $5,000 and a year in jail (or more) [17]

See also: Minor in Possession

 United States Virgin Islands 18[18]
 Uruguay None[2] 18[2] Alcohol sales are forbidden after 00.00 a.m. ID can be required.[citation needed]
 Venezuela 18[2]

Asia

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age[clarification needed] Purchase age
 Afghanistan Illegal[19]
 Armenia None[citation needed]
 Azerbaijan 18[2]
 Brunei Illegal[2] Although it is illegal to purchase alcohol, it is legal for foreigners aged 17 and above to bring limited amounts of alcohol into the country every 48 hours, provided it is consumed in their home.[2]
 Bangladesh Illegal[20]
 Cambodia None[21]
 People's Republic of China 18[2] 18[2] Introduced in January 2006.[22]
 Georgia 16[2]
 Hong Kong 18[2]
 India 18–25 (varies between states).[2]
Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Gujarat.[23]
 Indonesia 21[2]
 Iran Illegal[citation needed] Iran has a ban on all alcohol, but religious minorities may purchase small amounts from shops owned by the same religious minority.[24]
 Iraq 18[2] Forbidden to Muslims
 Israel None[2] 18[2] It is illegal to sell alcohol in Israel between 11:00 p.m and 6:00 a.m, outside of pubs and restaurants. It is also illegal to drink outdoors after 9:00 p.m.
 Jordan 18[25]
 Japan 20[2]
 Kazakhstan 21[26]
 Kuwait Illegal[27]
 Kyrgyzstan 18[2]
 Lebanon 18[2]
 Macau None[2] None[2][28]
 Malaysia None[2] 18[2] In areas with more than 50% of Muslim population, sale of alcohol is restricted to selected places. It is illegal to sell alcohol to Muslims and to persons under 18, but there are no restrictions on drinking age.
 Maldives 18[2] Sale of alcohol is limited to tourist resorts. It is illegal to sell alcohol to Muslims.
 Mongolia 18[29]
 Nepal 18[citation needed] None
 North Korea 18[citation needed] Alcoholic beverages are served on Saturdays.[citation needed]
 Oman 21
 Pakistan 21[2] Illegal for Muslims[2]
 Philippines 18[30]
 Saudi Arabia Illegal[citation needed] Forbidden by Sharia. Offenders are typically punished with lashes.[citation needed]
 Singapore 18[2]
 South Korea 19[2] If a person is 20 years old according to Korean age reckoning, that person may drink alcohol.[citation needed]
 Sri Lanka 21[2]
 Syria 18
 Republic of China (Taiwan) 18[2][31]
  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to consume alcohol.[32]
  • Parents, guardians, and others taking care of people under 18 shall prohibit underage drinking,[33] or risk administrative fines of 10000 to 50000 new Taiwan dollars when the situations are serious.[34]
  • One shall not supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 6.[35] A violator shall be administratively fined 3000 to 15000 new Taiwan dollars.[36]
 Tajikistan 21[citation needed] Off-limits to the Muslim majority
 Thailand 18[2] clubbing age is 20[citation needed]
 Turkmenistan 18[2]
 United Arab Emirates 21[citation needed] Expatriate, non-Muslim residents may request a liquor permit to purchase alcoholic beverages; it is illegal for such holders to provide drinks to others.[37]
 Vietnam None[citation needed]
 Yemen Illegal[citation needed]

Europe

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age[clarification needed] Purchase age
 Albania None[2]
 Austria 16, 18 for distilled beverages in some areas.[2] Upper Austria, Salzburg and Tirol prohibit the consumption of distilled beverages below the age of 18, while Carinthia and Styria prohibit drinks containing more than 12% or 14% of alcohol respectively in this age bracket. Carinthia additionally requires adolescents to maintain a blood alcohol level below 0.05%, while Upper Austria prohibits "excessive consumption", and Salzburg prohibits consumption that would result in a state of intoxication. Prohibitions in Vienna, Burgenland, Lower Austria and Vorarlberg apply only to alcohol consumption in public. Vienna additionally prohibits the consumption of alcohol in schools under the age of 18.[38]
 Belarus 18[2]
 Belgium 16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits[2] In Belgium, it has since 10 January 2010 been illegal to "sell, serve, or offer" strong drink (over 22%) to those under the age of 18, and any alcoholic drink to those under 16.[39] Previously, it was illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to under-16s, but accompanying adults could buy drinks for them.
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 16[citation needed] 18[citation needed]
 Bulgaria 18[2] Bulgaria's Health Act prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons under 18 years of age, but not their consumption.[40]
 Croatia 18[2]
 Cyprus 17[2]
 Czech Republic 18[2]
 Denmark 18[2] 16[2] To buy alcohol (above 1.2% and bellow 16,5% ABV) in stores, one must be 16, but to be served alcohol at bars, restaurants and discos the minimum is 18. For alcohol above 16,5% you must be 18.[41][42] There is no drinking age, only a purchase age, and an adult may buy alcohol for a minor. By tradition, youths are privately allowed to drink alcohol after their confirmation.[43] If a shop or bar fails to ask for an ID card and is identified having sold alcohol to an underage, it is subject to fine. A national ID card, obtained in the local town hall, can serve as age verification.[44] This card is rarely used though since a passport or moped-licence can sometimes be used.[45]
 Estonia 18 Drinking in public is prohibited for everyone. Stores may sell alcohol only between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.[citation needed]
 Finland 18 for possession and purchase of ≤ 22% ABV
20 for possession and purchase of ≥ 22% ABV
18 for all in bars and restaurants [2]
Age limits apply to purchase and possession. Police may search minors in public places and confiscate or destroy alcoholic beverages. Adults are responsible for alcohol use by minors in private.[46] Stores may sell alcohol only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
 France 18[2] Buying alcohol is illegal below the age of 18[47] Selling alcohol to a minor can be fined 7500 euros.[48] The law has been changed recently.[49] Drinking alcohol is not forbidden to minors in private, but supplying them with alcohol that results in intoxication is forbidden.[50]
 Germany 16 for beer and wine; 18 for spirits[2] Possession or consumption of alcohol by minors is allowed, but it is illegal to sell minors alcohol or to let them drink in public below the respective drinking age. Fermented alcoholic beverages may be consumed by minors in public when in presence of a legal guardian; drinking in private is not restricted. The restrictions on distilled beverages apply also to mixed drinks containing them.[51]
 Gibraltar 18[52] 18[52]
 Greece 18[2] none[2]
 Hungary 18[2]
 Iceland 20[2][53] Possession or consumption of alcohol by minors is not an offence but supplying said with alcohol is. However, law allows alcohol possessed by a minor to be confiscated.
 Ireland 18[2] It is illegal for minors to buy alcohol, to attempt to buy it for minors, or for minors to consume alcohol in a public space in Ireland. Those under 18 may consume alcohol in a private residence when permission is given from a parent or guardian. It is illegal to purchase alcohol for anybody under the age of consent without permission from their guardians. One cannot purchase alcohol in a shop/off licence after 10 pm. Or Before 1pm on Sunday. [54]
 Italy 16[2] South Tyrol prohibits both serving and purchase for people under the age of 18 and to everybody in a state of inebriation.[55]
 Latvia 18[2]
 Liechtenstein 16 for wine, beer and cider
18 for spirits and spirit-based beverages. e.g. alcopops
Wine, beer and ciders as well as some other party drinks sometimes without spirits may be purchased by the age of 16. Spirits as well as alcopops may be sold only to people at least 18.[56]
 Lithuania 18[2]
 Luxembourg 16 [57]
 Macedonia None[citation needed]
 Malta 17 Must provide identification upon request.
 Moldova 18
 Montenegro None 18[citation needed]
 Netherlands 16 (under 15% ABV); 18 (15% ABV and over)[2] If the person is under the age of 20, an identity card has to be shown before buying. Drinking in public is banned by local ordinance in most municipalities. Selling alcohol to underage customers carries a fine of €900–€3,600.[citation needed]
 Norway 18; 20 (≥22% ABV)[2][58] Selling alcohol to minors or buying alcohol on behalf of minors is illegal. Minors are defined as under 18 for beer and wine, under 20 for drinks that contain 22% ABV or more. Minors who buy alcohol are not held criminally responsible; instead, the crime lies with those who sold it or obtained it for them.

Alcohol possessed by minors may be confiscated as evidence. Drinking in public is prohibited, though this is rarely enforced in recreational areas. [59]

 Poland None 18[60] §15.1 Clearly states that buyers must be at least 18 and prove it with ID if they look like they may not be at least that age. However, drinking alcohol under 18 is allowed.
 Portugal 16
 Romania None[61] 18 [62] According to law 61/1991 updated in 2008, paragraphs 21-25, it is illegal to serve or sell alcohol to minors. The law also imposes restrictions on serving or selling alcohol in some public locations (parks, hospitals, schools, stadiums, airports, public transport etc.) or during certain events (strikes, public meetings, sport events etc.)
 Russia 18[63] There is no law or regulation in Russia that prohibits minors from consuming alcohol, but selling alcohol to minors is prohibited by federal as well as additional regional laws.
 Serbia 18[citation needed] Sale of alcoholic beverages to minors is prohibited.
 Slovakia 18[citation needed]
 Slovenia 18[2] There is no law regulating the possession and consumption, but it is illegal to sell or offer alcohol of any kind to minors. Also, it is illegal to sell alcohol in stores from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and before 10 a.m. in bars and restaurants. The law also prohibits serving alcohol to obviously intoxicated customers as well as less than 1 h before and during sport events.[citation needed]
 Spain 18[2] 16 in Asturias.[2] It is illegal to sell alcohol to people under 18, the fine being between €30,000 and €600,000.[64] Stores are not allowed to sell alcohol between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m after a recent law was passed.[65]
 Sweden None (less than 2.25% ABV)
18 (bars and restaurants)
18 (2.25%–3.5% ABV in normal shops),
20 (Systembolaget shops[66] stores),
See also alcohol in Sweden. Many clubs choose to have higher age limits than 18, commonly 20 or 23. It is legal to drink below 18, but it is illegal to sell, lend or give alcohol to someone under that age,[67] and the police can seize alcohol from them. The reason for lower limit in bars than in Systembolaget shops is that bartenders have a legal responsibility for how drunk a guest gets.
 Switzerland 16/18 for beer, wine and cider; 18 for spirits[2] Age for non-spirits varies by canton
 Turkey 18[2] The government has been steadily restricting alcohol in Turkey, with proposals to create alcohol-free zones,[68] bars on alcohol sold in new packaging,[69] bans on sports advertising, restricting sales, and making it harder to have alcohol at public events.[70] Only those over 24 may participate in events which distribute alcohol.[71]
 Ukraine 18[2]
 United Kingdom 18[2] Children under 5 must not be given alcohol unless under medical supervision or in an emergency (Children and Young Persons Act 1933, Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937).[72][73]

Between the ages of 5 and 18, it is legally permissible for children to drink alcohol at home or at a friend's house with the permission of a parent or legal guardian.[74]

The minimum age for the purchase of alcohol is 18. People aged 16 or 17 may consume wine, beer or cider on licensed premises when ordered with a meal.[1] In England and Wales, it must be an adult who orders,[75] however an adult doesn't have to be present to order alcohol with a meal in Scotland. The legal age for the purchase of alcohol from an off-licence (store/supermarket) is 18. (The legal age to buy liqueur chocolates is 16, but this is rarely enforced.)

Under the BBPA's Challenge 21 scheme, customers attempting to buy alcoholic beverages are asked to prove their age if in the retailer's opinion they look under 21 even though the law states they must be a minimum of 18. Many supermarket and off-licence chains display Challenge 21 notices stating that they will not serve persons who look under 21 without ID.

Supermarkets or off-licence chains which are found to have violated the law and have repeatedly sold alcohol to underage persons are then required to adopt the Challenge 25 scheme. Failing to adhere to this will result in revocation of the licence to sell alcohol.

Purchasing alcohol on behalf of a minor is illegal in all of the United Kingdom. This means acting as the young person's agent.[76][77]

Oceania

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age[clarification needed] Purchase age
 American Samoa 21[citation needed]
 Australia 18[2][78]
Minors may consume alcohol in a private residence with parental supervision.[79] However, in Western Australia it is illegal for minors to consume alcohol anywhere.
 Fiji 18[80] 21[80] The drinking age was 21 from 2006-2009 but was lowered to 18 in 2009.[80]
 Guam 21 Raised to 21 on July 8, 2010.[81]
 Micronesia, Federated States of 21[2]
 New Zealand 18[2] Persons under 18 may not drink outside private residences or private functions unless accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. Alcohol may only be supplied to minors by their parent or legal guardian, although adult hosts of private functions may supply alcohol as long as no money exchanges hands. A bill is currently in Parliament proposing to raise the age for off-licence purchases to 20.[82]
 Northern Mariana Islands 21[citation needed]
 Palau 21[2]
 Papua New Guinea 18[2]
 Samoa 18[2]
 Solomon Islands 21[2] None[2]
 Tonga 18[2] None[2]
 Tokelau 16[citation needed]
 Vanuatu 18[2]

See also

References

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