Legal drinking age
The legal drinking age is the age at which a person can consume or purchase alcohol. 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.
The United Kingdom and Singapore are the only countries that have a minimum legal age for drinking alcohol in private locations such as the home. Some Islamic nations prohibit Muslims, or both Muslims and non-Muslims, from drinking alcohol at any age, due to Islam forbidding the consumption of alcohol. 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.
Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Solomon Islands, India (certain states), the United States (except U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico), Yemen (Aden and Sana'a), Japan, Iceland, Canada (certain Provinces and Territories), and South Korea have the highest set drinking ages.
|Drinking Age||Purchase age|
|Burundi||18||No limit if accompanied by parents.|
|Cameroon||18||21||18 on the premises, 21 off the premises|
|Central African Republic||18|
|Egypt||18 (beer), 21 (wine/spirits)|
|Gabon||18||Illegal for Muslims|
|Gambia||18||Illegal for Muslims|
|Republic of the Congo||18|
|South Africa||18||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.|
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|Argentina||18||Alcohol sales are forbidden after 09.00 p.m. ID can be required.|
|British Virgin Islands||16||18|
|Canada||18||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, and under parental supervision in a residence or a temporary residence in Alberta.|
|19||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 and Ontario and at home in the provinces of Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan. 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.|
|Chile||18||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.|
|Trinidad and Tobago||18|
| United States
(50 states and integral territories)
|21||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.
The State of Washington 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).
See also: Minor in Possession
|United States Virgin Islands||18|
|Uruguay||None||18||Alcohol sales are forbidden after 00.00 a.m. ID can be required.[clarification needed]|
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|Brunei||Illegal||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.|
|China||18||Introduced in January 2006.|
|Hong Kong||18 ||The regulation is only applicable to restaurants, bars and clubs, where a liquor license is required. No license is required for selling liquor in other places, and there is no law concerning drinking alcoholic beverages.|
|India||18–25 (varies between states).||
Main article: Alcohol laws of India
Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the states of Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Gujarat.
|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.|
|Israel||18||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.|
|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||Sale of alcohol is limited to tourist resorts. It is illegal to sell alcohol to Muslims.|
|North Korea||18||Alcoholic beverages are served on Saturdays.|
|Oman||21||Residents need personal liquor licenses to consume alcohol in their private residences.|
|Pakistan||21||Forbidden by Sharia. Illegal for Muslims|
|Palestine||16||Legal in most cities|
|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. Punishments for drinking or possessing alcohol ranges from heavy fines, lengthy prison terms and whippings.[unreliable source?]|
|Singapore||None (Private places, sometimes with permission from parents/guardian)
18 (Public places e.g. bars and restaurants)
|Syria||18||During the Syrian Civil War, Islamic extremists have made consumption of alcohol illegal under territories under their control.|
|Tajikistan||21||Off-limits to the Muslim majority|
|Thailand||20 ||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.|
|Turkey||18||The law bans the sale of alcohol in shops between 22:00 and 06:00|
|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.|
|Yemen||Illegal||Exception is in Aden Region where it's legal for 21 and up|
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|Austria||16, 18 for distilled beverages in some areas.||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.|
|Belgium||16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits||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. Previously, it was illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to under-16s, but accompanying adults could buy drinks for them.|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||18|
|Bulgaria||None||18||The Health Act prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons under 18 years of age, but not their consumption.|
|Czech Republic||18||It is illegal to provide alcohol to minors (punishable by fine or up to 1 or 2 year(s) imprisonment). Consumption itself is not prohibited by law.|
|Denmark||none||16 to buy alcohol <16.5% ABV
18 to buy alcohol >16.5% ABV
18 to be served in restaurants, bars, discos etc.
|Meanwhile there is no age requirement for drinking alcohol in Denmark, there are laws which prevent minors from buying alcohol; in order to buy alcohol above 1.2% and below 16.5% ABV in stores, one must be 16 and 18 for alcohol above 16.5% ABV; but to be served alcohol at bars, restaurants and discos, the minimum is 18. By tradition, youths are privately allowed to drink alcohol after their confirmation. 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. This card is rarely used though since a passport or moped-licence can sometimes be used.|
|Estonia||18||Drinking in public is prohibited for everyone. Stores may sell alcohol only between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.|
|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
|All major grocery chains have implemented the policy to ask for ID if the customer is looking under 30. Stores may refuse to sell if the customer is accompanied by a minor or proxy purchasing is suspected. Stores may sell alcohol only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Purchasing alcohol on behalf of a minor is considered a criminal offence.
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.
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.
|France||18||France has no explicitly stated consumption age, but selling alcohol to a minor (under 18) is illegal and can be fined 7500 euros. This age was raised from 16 to 18 in 2009. It is illegal serve alcoholic beverages to minors under the age of sixteen which are not accompanied by one of their parents or a responsible adult.|
|Germany||14 for beer and wine (with permission of and in the presence of legal guardian)
16 for beer and wine
18 for spirits
|Gibraltar||16 for beer, wine or cider with less than 15% ABV on licensed premises
|16 for beer, wine or cider with less than 15% ABV on licensed premises
|Iceland||20||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||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.|
|Italy||18||In 2012 the then Health Minister Renato Balduzzi proposed to raise the age to 18. Selling alcohol to those under the age of 18 in shops carries a fine between €250 and €1000. Serving alcoholic bavereages to those under the age of 16 is a criminal offense and is punished with prison up to one year, if the individual is 16 or 17 it will be treated as an offense which is fined between €250 and €1000 (Legge n. 189/2012).|
|Latvia||18||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.|
|Lithuania||18||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.|
|Macedonia||18 ||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 ||Must provide identification upon request.|
|Netherlands||18||If the person is under the age of 25, an identity card has to be shown before buying. Drinking in public is banned by local ordinance in some municipalities. Selling alcohol to underage customers carries a fine of €900–3,600. The legal age was raised in 01. Jan 2014, from 16 (>16.5% ABV) to 18 for all kind of alcoholic bavereages.|
20 (≥22% ABV)
|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 possessed by minors may be confiscated as evidence. Drinking in public is prohibited, though this is rarely enforced in recreational areas.
|Poland||18||18||Article 15 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.|
|Portugal||16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits||Age for spirits increased to 18 in 2012.|
|Romania||None||18 ||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||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.
Until 2011, any drink with ABV under 10% was not considered an alcoholic beverage.
The Duma is now considering raising the legal drinking age to 21 in hope to stop alcohol abuse among young adults. This bill is called Law 21.
|Slovenia||18||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||18 in most regions. 16 in Asturias.
It is illegal to sell alcohol to people under 18, the fine being between €30,000 and €600,000. 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.
|Sweden||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, 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 fermented alcoholic drinks with less than 15% ABV and natural wines with less than 18% ABV; 18 for spirits||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.|
|United Kingdom||0 under medical supervision,
5 private premises,
16 with a meal on licenced premises,
|16 with a meal in Scotland,
16 in liqueur chocolates,
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 those under the age of 18 are then required to adopt the Challenge 25 scheme, which means they must not sell alcohol to anyone who looks under the age of 25 unless they can prove that they are over 18. Failing to adhere to this may result in revocation of the licence to sell alcohol. (Challenge 25 is standard procedure in Scotland and the main supermarket chains.) Some places take their policies a step further and operate a challenge 30 scheme.
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|American Samoa||21|
Main article: Alcohol laws of Australia
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.
|Fiji||18||18||The drinking age was 21 from 2006 to 2009 but was lowered to 18 in 2009.|
|Micronesia, Federated States of||21|
|New Zealand||18||Minimum age applies for beverages with 1.15% ABV or over; no restrictions on beverages less than 1.15% ABV.
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 and with permission from their parent or legal guardian, but no adult hosts of private functions may supply alcohol.
|Northern Mariana Islands||21|
|Papua New Guinea||18|
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