Legal drinking age
The legal drinking age is the age at which a person can legally consume or purchase alcoholic beverages. These laws cover a wide range of issues and behaviors, 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 in some countries. 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 (an exception being the UK, which has a minimum legal age of five for supervised consumption in private places). Some countries also have different age limits for different types of alcoholic drinks.
Some Islamic nations prohibit Muslims, or both Muslims and non-Muslims, from drinking alcohol at any age. In other 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.
Kazakhstan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Paraguay, 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, however some of these countries do not have off-premises drinking limits. Austria, Belgium, Burundi, Denmark, Germany, Georgia, Luxembourg, Moldova and Western Sahara have the lowest set drinking ages.
|Drinking Age||Purchase age|
|Angola||None||There is no national legislation prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors.|
|18||Legislation in Luanda Province:
It is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 18. It is also illegal for minors to buy and consume alcohol.
|Botswana||None||18||It is illegal for any person with a liquor license to sell or supply alcoholic beverages to minors under the age of 18 years. Because the law only applies to licensees it is not illegal for minors to buy, consume or possess alcoholic beverages.|
|Burundi||None||18 (None if accompanied by parent or legal guardian)||It is illegal for any person with a liquor license to sell or supply alcoholic beverages to unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 years.|
|Cameroon||21/18 (if accompanied by a person 21 years of age or older)||It is illegal for any person with a liquor license, to sell or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under 18 years of age. The law permits adults fromn the ages 18 to 21 to consume, purchase and buy alcoholic beverages if accompanied by a person 21 years of age or older. Anyone over the age of 21 years may buy or consume alcohol unaccompanied.|
|Cape Verde||None||18||It is illegal for any person to sell or supply alcoholic beverages to minors under the age of 18 years.|
|Central African Republic||None|
|Eritrea||None||18||It is illegal for any person to sell or serve alcoholic beverages to minors under the age of 18 years.|
|Ethiopia||None||15||It is illegal for any person to sell, offer, serve or allow to serve alcoholic beverages "in substantial quantities" to any infant or young person. The criminal code defines a young person as any person under the age of 15 years. But the Criminal Code states: "Whoever endangers the health of another, intentionally and unscrupulously, by administering or serving, or by causing or permitting to be administered or served, to minors (defined as anyone under the age of 18 years) (...) alcoholic beverages or spirituous liquors of such kind or in such quantity as to make their injurious effect certain or probable, is punishable with simple imprisonment not exceeding one year, and fine."|
|Gambia||None||17||It is illegal to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to child or young person. A "young person" is defined as anyone under the age of 17 by the Children and Young Persons Act, 1949 Section 2.|
|Kenya||None||18||It is illegal to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 18 years.|
|Lesotho||18||It is illegal to sell, serve or supply any alcoholic beverage to a minor under the age of 18 years. It is also illegal for minors to consume, buy or attempt to buy alcohol.|
|Liberia||None||18||It is illegal to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 18 years.|
|Libya||Illegal||Previously Article 498 of the Libyan Penal Code prohibted the sale of acloholic beverages to juveniles under the age of 16 years.|
|Malawi||None||18||It is illegal to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 18 years.|
|Mauritius||None||18||It is illegal to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 18 years.|
|Namibia||None||18||It is illegal to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 18 years.|
|Republic of the Congo||None||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.|
16 (for a wine, beer, porter, cider, perry or native liquor for consumption at a meal in a part of the licensed premises usually set apart for the service of meals that is not a bar)
|It is illegal for any licensee to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 18 years. The law provides an exception for anyone who is 16 or 17 years of age, and consumes a fermented alcoholic drink with a meal, in a part of a licensed premises that serves meals and is not a bar.|
|Zambia||18||It is illegal for any person with a liquor license, to sell, serve or supply alcoholic beverages to anyone under 18 years of age. Before the Liquor Licensing Act was enacted in 2011, the minimum age to sell, serve and supply alcoholic beverages was 14 years.|
|Zimbabwe||None||16 ||It is illegal for any person to sell, lend, give, supply, deliver or offer alcoholic beverages to any child under the age of 16 years, except upon production of a written order signed by the parent or guardian of the child known to such person. The police has the duty to seize any alcoholice beverage in the possession of a child under the age of 16 years without a written consent of the parents or legal guardian.|
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|Antigua and Barbuda||16||The sale and distribution of alcohol to a person under 16 years of age is illegal.|
|Barbados||18||Those aged 10–17 are allowed to consume alcohol provided they are with a parent or guardian.|
|Belize||18||Drinking age is rarely enforced. IDs are almost never requested.|
|British Virgin Islands||16||It is illegal to sell or to supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 16.|
|Canada||18||In Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec, the legal drinking age is 18.|
|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.|
|Chile||18||The minimum age is 18 to enter an enclosure that sells alcoholic beverages. Selling alcohol to a minor may incur 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.|
|Falkland Islands||18|
|Guyana||18||Except 16 for wine or malt liquor to be consumed with a meal|
|Jamaica||None||18||Minors can drink if accompanied by parent or legal guardian as well as someone with permission from their parent or legal guardian.|
|Mexico||18||A person must be eighteen years or over to legally purchase and consume alcoholic beverages in Mexico. The drinking age however isn't strictly enforced, and IDs are barely requested.|
|Trinidad and Tobago||18|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||18|
| United States
(50 states and integral territories)
|Varies by jurisdiction||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 or location exceptions to their underage consumption laws.
Federal law explicitly provides for religious exceptions. As of 2005, 31 states have family member 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 states of Washington and 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 twenty-one a gross misdemeanor with a potential penalty of a $5,000 fine or up to year in jail.
|United States Virgin Islands||18|
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|Bangladesh||(Illegal for Muslims.)||Alcohol will be sold to foreigners in certain locations, albeit clandestinely.|
|Brunei||17 with restrictions, unless Muslim||Non-Muslims over 17 years of age are allowed to import alcohol not to exceed maximum total volume 2 liters of liquor and 12 cans of beer at 330 ml for personal use, once in 48 hours. This alcohol must be “stored and consumed at the place of residence of the importer” and is “not to be given, transferred or sold to another person.”.|
|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. Private drinking is also not regulated.|
|India||18–25 (varies by jurisdiction)||states of Bihar, Gujarat and Nagaland.Consumption of alcohol is illegal in the|
|Iran||Illegal ||There is a ban on alcohol, but religious minorities may purchase small amounts from shops owned by the same religious minority.|
|Israel||None||18||Israel law prohibits selling or serving alcohol to minors, but it does not prohibit minors to drink, although the police may confiscate alcoholic drinks consumed by minors in public.|
|Lebanon||18||Often unenforced and according to a global school health study, 40% of minors over 13 drink alcohol and up to 25% buy it from stores.|
|Malaysia||21||Increased from 18 to 21 in December 2017.|
|Maldives||Illegal except for tourists, 18||Sale of alcohol is limited to tourist resorts. It is illegal to sell alcohol to local Maldivians|
|Nepal||18||The legal age for consumption of alcohol in Nepal is 18. However, there are exceptions to underage consumption for purposes of religious ceremonies.|
|Oman||21||Residents need personal liquor licenses to consume alcohol in their private residences.|
|Pakistan||Illegal ||Non-Muslim citizens may possess alcohol to be used in accordance with religious ceremonies|
|Palestinian Authority||16||Legal in most cities.|
|Qatar||19||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 range from heavy fines, lengthy prison terms and whippings.|
|Singapore||None (Private places, sometimes with permission from parents/guardian)
18 (Public places e.g. bars and restaurants)
|South Korea||None||18||The age limit for alcohol is after January 1 of the year one's age turns to 19.|
|Thailand||20||The Alcoholic Beverage Control Act of 2008 increased the drinking age in Thailand from 18 to 20, private drinking is not regulated in private locations.|
|United Arab Emirates||18–21 (varies by jurisdiction).||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.
The legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi (although a Ministry of Tourism by-law allows hotels to serve alcohol only to those over 21), and 21 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates (except Sharjah, where drinking alcohol is illegal).
It is a punishable offence to drink, or to be under the influence of alcohol, in public.
|Yemen||Illegal||Exception is in Aden Region where it's legal for 21 and up|
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|Armenia||None||18||There are no laws mandating alcohol vendors to ID potential underage drinkers. ID checks are very rarely, if ever, carried out.|
|Austria||16||Burgenland, Lower Austria and Vienna|
|16 for beer and wine
18 for distilled beverages
| Carinthia, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol and Vorarlberg
Carinthia also requires adolescents to maintain a blood alcohol level below 0.05%.
|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||None||18|
|Czech Republic||None||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
|While there is no age requirement for drinking alcohol in Denmark, there are laws that prevent minors from buying alcohol:
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 drivers license is more commonly used.
Both the legal drinking and purchasing age in the Faroe Islands is 18.
|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 a policy to ask for ID if the customer looks under 30. Stores may refuse to sell alcohol if the customer is accompanied by a minor, or if proxy purchasing is suspected. Purchasing alcohol on behalf of a minor is 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||None||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.|
|Germany||None (on private residence)
16 (in public) (14 when accompanied by a custodial person) for beer and wine
|16 for beer and wine
18 for spirits and aliments containing spirits above negligible amounts
|Gibraltar||None||16/18||It is illegal to sell alcoholic drinks to anyone under the age of 18.
The minimum age to be served in licensed premises is 16 if:
|Greece||None||18||In 2008, the consumption of alcoholic beverages was prohibited for minors in public. However, the law does not apply to private events or private premises.|
|Iceland||None||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||None (on private residence with permission from parents or guardians) ||18||It is illegal for minors to buy alcohol or for a third party to attempt to buy it for minors. It is illegal to purchase alcohol for anybody under the age of consent without permission from their guardians.|
|Italy||None||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 beverages 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 that is fined between €250 and €1000 (Legge n. 189/2013).|
|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||20||Minors under the age of 20 are prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages or from having them.|
|Macedonia||18 (16 for beer)[unreliable source?]||Must show an ID card upon request. In certain smaller places, such as family-owned convenience stores and street kiosks, there is little to no enforcement on how old or young somebody purchases alcohol. There is little to no enforcement for drinking privately, but drinking in bars may require an ID.|
|Malta||17||Must provide identification upon request.|
|Moldova||None||16||It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 16. There is no consumption age.|
|Netherlands||18||The legal age for purchasing and consumption of alcoholic beverages was raised from 16 to 18 on 1 January 2014. Alcohol is commonly available upon parental permission. Selling alcoholic beverages to people under 18 is illegal, although giving it away in private is not.|
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 possessed by minors may be confiscated as evidence. Drinking in public is prohibited, though this is rarely enforced in recreational areas.
|Poland||None||18||Article 15 of The Act on Upbringing in Sobriety and Counteracting Alcoholism clearly states that buyers or persons being served must be at least 18 and prove it with ID if they look like they may not be at least that age. There is no mention of consumption age in this or any other act in Poland. Drinking on streets, town squares, and in parks is illegal regardless of age.|
|Romania||None||18||According to law 61/1991 updated in 2008, paragraphs 21-25, it is illegal to serve or sell alcohol to minors.|
|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.|
|Slovenia||None||18||There is no law regulating the possession and consumption, but it is illegal to sell or offer alcohol of any kind to minors.|
|Spain||18||Asturias was the last autonomous community in Spain where the drinking age was increased to 18 (previously 16) on 1 May 2015.|
| The reason for lower limit in bars than in Systembolaget shops is that bartenders have a legal responsibility for how drunk a guest gets.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, apart from being served alcohol supervised in private "in moderation". It is legal to serve an underage person alcohol in a private place.|
|16 for fermented alcoholic drinks (with less than 15% ABV and natural wines with less than 18% ABV);
18 for spirits 
|Whoever offers or supplies alcoholic beverages to a child under the age of 16 years in an amount which is harmful to one's health is punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or a fine. Whoever sells or supplies spirits to a person under the age of 18 years is punished with a fine up to 10.000 CHF.|
|18||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||18 (on licensed premises)
16 (beer, wine or cider with a meal on licensed premises)
5 (not on licensed premises)
None (under medical supervision, or in an emergency)
|Legislation in England and Wales:
|18 (in public without a meal or adult supervision)
16 (beer, wine or cider on licensed premises with meal)
5 (on private premises)
16 (beer, wine, cider or perry with a meal on licensed premises)
|Legislation in Scotland:
|18||Legislation in Northern Ireland:
It is illegal to sell, serve, offer or consume alcoholic beverages in public under the age of 18.
|Challenge 21 and Challenge 25 (applies to all of the United Kingdom)
Under the BBPA's Challenge 21 and Challenge 25 schemes, customers attempting to buy alcoholic beverages are asked to prove their age if in the retailer's opinion they look under 21 (or optionally 25) even though the law states they must be a minimum of 18. Many supermarket and off-licence chains display Challenge 21 (or Challenge 25) notices stating that they will not serve persons who look under 21 (or 25) without ID.
|Drinking age||Purchase age|
|Australia||18||Varies by state. Some states restrict possession and consumption to over 18, all states restrict purchasing to over 18. In some states, minors may consume alcohol in a private residence with parental permission.|
|Fiji||18||The drinking age was 21 from 2006 to 2009 but was lowered to 18 in 2009.|
|Micronesia, Federated States of||21|
|New Zealand||None||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 drink outside private residences or private functions if accompanied by their parent or legal guardian. Alcohol may be supplied to minors only by, or with express consent from, their parent or legal guardian.
|Northern Mariana Islands||21|
|Papua New Guinea||18|
|Part of the Politics series on|
- Amethyst Initiative
- Alcohol consumption by youth in the United States
- National Minimum Drinking Age Act
- National Youth Rights Association
- Shoulder tap (alcohol)
- The Century Council
- Choose Responsibility
- Mature minor doctrine
- Youth suffrage
- Youth rights
- Age of candidacy
- Legal drinking age controversy
- Smoking age
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