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Underage drinking

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Underage drinking

The legal drinking age is the age at which a person can consume or purchase alcoholic food or alcoholic beverages. These laws 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 from 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 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 for whom it is legal to consume and purchase alcohol.


Country/region De jure Notes
Drinking age Purchase age
 Algeria 18[2]
 Angola 18
 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[2] 16[2]
 Mozambique 18[2]
 Namibia 18[2]
 Niger 18[2]
 Nigeria 18[2]
 Republic of the Congo 18[2]
 Rwanda 18[2]
 Seychelles 18[2]
 Somalia None [5]
 South Africa 18[2] The parent, adult guardian of a minor or a person responsible for administering a religious sacrament, may on occasion supply to that minor a moderate quantity of liquor to be consumed by the minor in the presence and under the supervision of that parent, guardian or other person.[6]
 South Sudan 18[7]
 Swaziland None[2] 18[2]
 Sudan Illegal[8]
 Tanzania 18[9]
 Togo None[2]
 Uganda 18[2]
 Tunisia 18[2]
 Zambia 18[2]
 Zimbabwe 18[2]


Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age Purchase age
 Argentina 18[2][10]
 Bahamas 18[2]
 Belize 18[2]
 Bermuda 18[2]
 Bolivia 18[2]
 Brazil 18[2] Laws regarding possession or consumption of alcohol by minors are hardly enforced, especially if in the company of a parent or guardian, but those regarding selling minors alcohol are harshly imposed by law keepers, and it is law to remember the legal purchase age while advertising alcoholic beverages. ID Card is required for purchase.
 Canada 18[11] In Alberta, Manitoba, and Quebec, the legal drinking age is 18. Underage drinking by 16- and 17-year-olds under parental supervision is permitted in Manitoba,[12] and under parental supervision in a residence or a temporary residence in Alberta.[13]
19[11] 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[14] and Ontario[15] 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.[16]
 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 Chilean identification card issued by the Civil Registry and Identification Service at all times.
 Colombia 18[2]
 Costa Rica 18[2]
 Cuba None[17] 18[18]
 Dominican Republic 18[2]
 Ecuador 18[2]
 El Salvador 18[2]
 Falkland Islands 18[2]
 Guatemala 18[2]
 Guyana 18[2]
 Haiti 16[17]
 Honduras 18[19]
 Jamaica None[2] 16[2]
 Mexico 18[2]
 Nicaragua 19[2]
 Panama 18[2]
 Paraguay 20[2]
 Peru 18[2]
 Puerto Rico 18[20]
 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 those under the age of 21.[21]

By a judge's ruling, South Carolina appears to allow the possession and consumption of alcohol by adults 18 to 20 years of age, but a circuit court judge said otherwise.[22]

The State of Wisconsin allows the consumption of alcohol in the presence of parents. Some U.S. States have legislation that make providing to and possession of alcohol by persons under 21 a gross misdemeanor with a potential of $5,000 and a year in jail (or more).[23]

 United States Virgin Islands 18[24]
 Uruguay None[2] 18[2] Alcohol sales are forbidden after 00.00 a.m. ID can be required.
 Venezuela 18[2]


Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age Purchase age
 Afghanistan Illegal[25]
 Armenia None
 Azerbaijan 16[2]
 Brunei Illegal[2] Although it is illegal to purchase alcohol, it is legal for non-Muslims aged 17 and above to bring limited amounts of alcohol into the country every 48 hours if it is consumed in their home.[2]
 Bangladesh Illegal[26] But non-Muslims can buy it in the airport
 Cambodia None[27]
 China 18[2] Introduced in January 2006.[28]
 Georgia 16[2]
 Hong Kong 18 [29] The regulation is only applicable to restaurants, bars and clubs, which a liquor license is required. No license is required for selling liquor in other places, and there is no law concerning on drinking alcoholic beverages.
 India 18–25 (varies between states).[2]
Main article: Alcohol laws of India

Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Gujarat.[30]
 Indonesia 21[2]
 Iran Almost entirely illegal There is a ban on alcohol, but religious minorities may purchase small amounts from shops owned by the same religious minority.[31]
 Iraq 18[2]
 Israel 18[2] It is illegal to sell alcohol between 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM, outside of pubs and restaurants. The law prohibits selling or serving alcohol to minors, but it does not prohibit minors to drink.
 Jordan 18[32]
 Japan 20[2]
 Kazakhstan 21[33]
 Kuwait Illegal[34] Forbidden by Sharia.
 Kyrgyzstan 18[2]
 Lebanon 18[2]
 Macau None[2] None[2][35]
 Malaysia 16 18 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[36]
   Nepal None None
 North Korea 18 Alcoholic beverages are served on Saturdays.
 Oman 21[37] Residents need personal liquor licenses to consume alcohol in their private residences.[37]
 Pakistan 21[2] Forbidden by Sharia. Illegal for Muslims[2]
 Palestine 16[2] Legal in most cities
 Philippines 18[38]
 Qatar 21 Muslims are allowed to purchase alcohol, but generally not allowed to consume. Non Muslims are allowed to purchase, and consume alcohol. The only legal distributor of alcohol in the country is the Qatar Distribution Company located in Doha.
 Saudi Arabia Illegal Drinking or possessing alcohol is illegal in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Persons who drink or possess alcohol are subject to arrest and trial.[39][unreliable source?]
 Singapore 18[2]
 South Korea 19[2] If a person is at least 20 according to Korean age reckoning, that person may drink alcohol.
 Sri Lanka 21[2]
 Syria 18 During the Syrian Civil War, Islamic extremists have made consumption of alcohol illegal under territories under their control.
 Taiwan 18[2][40]
  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to consume alcohol.[41]
  • Parents, guardians, and others taking care of people under 18 shall prohibit underage drinking,[42] or risk administrative fines of 10000 to 50000 new Taiwan dollars when the situations are serious.[43]
  • One shall not supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.[44] A violator shall be administratively fined 3000 to 15000 new Taiwan dollars.[45]
 Tajikistan 21 Off-limits to the Muslim majority
 Thailand 20 [46] The Alcoholic Beverage Control Act of 2008 increased the drinking age in Thailand from 18 to 20. Alcohol sale is banned between 2pm to 5pm and between midnight to 11am and also on election days and some religious holidays.[46]
 Turkmenistan 18[2]
 Turkey 18[2] The government has been steadily restricting alcohol in Turkey, with proposals to create alcohol-free zones,[47] bars on alcohol sold in new packaging,[48] bans on sports advertising, restricting sales, and making it harder to have alcohol at public events.[49] Alcohol is still readily available and the legal age is rarely enforced in bars or convenience stores.
 United Arab Emirates 21 Expatriate non-Muslim residents may request a liquor permit to purchase alcoholic beverages, but it is illegal for such holders to provide drinks to others.[50]
 Vietnam None[2] 18[2]
 Yemen Illegal Exception is in Aden Region where it's legal for 21 and up


Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age Purchase age
 Albania 18[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 also requires adolescents to maintain a blood alcohol level below 0.05%, 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 also prohibits the consumption of alcohol in schools by those under the age of 18.[51]
 Belarus 18[2]
 Belgium 16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits[2] Since 10 January 2010, it is illegal to "sell, serve, or offer" any form of distilled alcohol to those under the age of 18 or any alcoholic drink to those under 16. So fermented drinks like beer or wine are permitted above 16.[52] Previously, it was illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to under-16s, but accompanying adults could buy drinks for them.
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 18 18
 Bulgaria None 18[2] The Health Act prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons under 18 years of age, but not their consumption.[53]
 Croatia 18[2]
 Cyprus 17[2]
 Czech Republic 18[2] The sale of alcohol to minors is illegal, consumption is not prohibited by law.[54]
 Denmark 18 to be served at bars, discos etc.[2] 16[2] To buy alcohol (above 1.2% and below 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%, the age is 18.[55][56] 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.[57] 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.[58] This card is rarely used though since a passport or moped-licence can sometimes be used.[59]
 Estonia 18[60] Drinking in public is prohibited for everyone. Stores may sell alcohol only between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.[60]
 Finland 18 for possession and purchase of 1.2–22% ABV
20 for possession and purchase of 23–80% ABV
18 for all in bars, clubs and restaurants[61]
All major grocery chains have implemented the policy to ask for ID if the customer is looking under 30.[62] Stores may refuse to sell if the customer is accompanied by a minor or proxy purchasing is suspected. Purchasing alcohol on behalf of a minor is considered a criminal offence.[61][63]

Police may search minors in public places and confiscate or destroy any alcoholic beverages in their possession. Incidents are reported to the legal guardian and social authorities, who may intervene with child welfare procedures. In addition, those aged 15 or above are subject to a fine.[64]

In private, offering alcohol to a minor is considered a criminal offence if it results in drunkenness and the act can be deemed reprehensible as a whole, considering the minor's age, degree of maturity and other circumstances.[61]

 France 18[2] Selling alcohol to a minor (under 18) is illegal[65] and can be fined 7500 euros.[66] This age was raised from 16 to 18 in 2009.[67] Supplying minors with alcohol that results in intoxication is forbidden.[68]
 Germany 16 for beer and wine as some other party drinks without spirits;
18 for spirits[2]
Selling alcohol or permitting minors to drink below the respective drinking age can be fined between 100€ and 4000€, depending on type of alcohol and points of sale. Fermented alcoholic beverages may be consumed by minors at the age of 14 in public in presence of a legal guardian; drinking in private is allowed. The restrictions on distilled beverages apply also to mixed drinks containing them.[69]
 Gibraltar 18[70] 18[70]
 Greece 18[2] None[2]
 Hungary 18[2]
 Iceland 20[2][71] Possession or consumption of alcohol by minors is not an offence, but supplying them 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 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. Alcohol can be sold in stores only between 10:30 and 22:00 on weekdays and Saturdays or 12:30 and 22:00 on Sundays.[72]
 Italy 18 [73] The age was raised from 16 to 18 in 2013 by the Health Minister Renato Balduzzi. Selling alcohol to minors is fined with 250-1000€
 Latvia 18[2] Selling alcoholic beverages in stores, with the exception of bars, clubs and restaurants, is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Drinking in public is prohibited.
 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.[74]
 Lithuania 18[2] In the Republic of Lithuania drinking in public is prohibited. Selling alcoholic beverages in stores is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m and on 1 September of every year. Minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages or from having them.
 Luxembourg 16 [75]
 Macedonia 18 [76] Must show an ID card upon request. From May 1 until September 30, alcohol can be sold in stores only between 6:00 and 21:00
 Malta 17 [77] Must provide identification upon request.
 Moldova 18
 Montenegro None 18
 Netherlands 16 (under 15% ABV); 18 (15% ABV and over);[2] (all 18 from 1 January 2014) 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. Moreover, the sale of strong alcoholic beverages (spirits with alcohol content of 15% or more) is not permitted in the ordinary markets but restricted to licensed liquor shops. Selling alcohol to underage customers carries a fine of €900–3,600.
 Norway None[78] 18 (<22%) / 20 (≥22% ABV)[2] Selling alcohol to or buying alcohol for 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 may be sold in stores between 08:00 and 20:00 on weekdays, and Saturdays between 08:00 and 18:00. Alcoholic beverages containing more than 4,75 % ABV are sold in Vinmonopolet. In Vinmonopolet alcohol may be sold between 08:00 and 18:00 during week days, and between 08:00 and 15:00 the day before Sunday or religious holidays.

Alcohol with more than 60% ABV is considered illegal narcotics.

Alcohol possessed by minors may be confiscated as evidence. Drinking in public is prohibited, though this is rarely enforced in recreational areas.[79]

 Poland None 18[80] Section 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. Poland has no explicitly stated consumption age.
 Portugal 16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits[81] Age increased to 18 in 2012.
 Romania None[82] 18 [83] 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 None 18[84] There is no law or regulation in Russia that prohibits minors from consuming alcohol, but selling alcohol to minors is prohibited by federal and additional regional laws.
 Serbia 18
 Slovakia 18
 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., 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.
 Spain 18[2] 18 in most regions.[85] 16 in Asturias.[2]

It is illegal to sell alcohol to people under 18, the fine being between €30,000 and €600,000.[86] Stores are not allowed to sell alcohol between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m without a specific license, after a recent law was passed.[87]

 Sweden None (in private "in moderation")
18 (bars and restaurants)
None (less than 2.25% ABV)
18 (bars and restaurants, 2.25%–3.5% ABV in normal shops),
20 (Systembolaget shops[88] 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,[89] 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 for beer, wine and cider with less than 15% ABV; 18 for spirits[2] The canton Ticino prohibits selling and consumption of any type of alcohol by minors under the age of 18. Some shops and supermarkets may not sell alcohol to minors under the age of 18.[90]
 Ukraine 18[2]
 United Kingdom 5,[91] 16[92] 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).[91][93]

Between the ages of 5 and 17, 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.[92]

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;[94] 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 that 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. (Challenge 25 is standard procedure in Scotland and the main supermarket chains.)

Purchasing alcohol on behalf of a minor is illegal in all of the United Kingdom. This means acting as the young person's agent.[95][96]


Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking age Purchase age
 American Samoa 21
 Australia 18[2][97]
Varies by state. Some states restrict possession and consumption to over 18, all states restrict purchasing to over 18. Minors may consume alcohol in a private residence with parental supervision.[98]
 Fiji 18[99] 21[99] The drinking age was 21 from 2006 to 2009 but was lowered to 18 in 2009.[99]
 Guam 21[100]
 Micronesia, Federated States of 21[2]
 New Zealand 18[2][101] Minimum age applies for beverages with 1.15% ABV or over; no restrictions on beverages less than 1.15% ABV.[102]
Persons under 18 may not drink outside private residences or private functions unless accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. Alcohol may be supplied to minors only by their parent or legal guardian, but no adult hosts of private functions may supply alcohol.
 Northern Mariana Islands 21
 Palau 21[2]
 Papua New Guinea 18[2]
 Samoa 18[2]
 Solomon Islands 21[2] None[2]
 Tonga 18[2] None[2]
 Tokelau 16
 Vanuatu 18[2]

See also


External links

  • South Africa.
  • ICAP International Center for Alcohol Policies
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