drinking age

Legal drinking age

The legal drinking age is a limit assigned by governments to restrict the access of children and youth to alcoholic beverages. Legal drinking ages vary from country to country, and sometimes, within a particular country. In most countries the legal age to purchase alcohol is 18, but there are considerable variations: some countries do not recognize a drinking age; others outlaw drinking; and still others, like India, mandate a drinking age as high as 25 in some states. Finally, enforcement varies greatly, even within jurisdictions.

Africa

Country / Region De jure Notes
Drinking Age Purchase Age
Algeria 18
Botswana 18
Cameroon 18 21
Egypt 18, 21 For purchases, legal age is 18 for beer, 21 for everything else.
Eritrea 18
Ethiopia 18
Ghana none
Tanzania 5
Kenya 18
Libya illegal
Malawi 18
Mauritius 18
Morocco none 16
Namibia 18
Niger 18
Nigeria 18 A true drinking age has not been established, however 18 is considered "acceptable" since it is the age of most countries
South Africa 18
Sudan illegal
Tunisia none
Uganda 18
Zambia 12
Zimbabwe 18

Americas

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking Age Purchase Age
Antigua 16
Argentina 18
Bahamas 18
Barbados 18 Those aged 10–17 are allowed to consume alcohol provided they are with a parent.
Belize 18
Bermuda 18
Bolivia 18
Brazil 18
Canada 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec. Underage drinking under adult supervision is permitted in Manitoba and Alberta, underage drinking in Quebec is legal if the container is concealed and/or if done in private.
19 in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut. (Legal drinking age legislation falls under provincial jurisdiction.) Underage drinking under adult supervision is permitted in licensed premises in New Brunswick, and at home in the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan.
Cayman Islands 18
Chile 18
Colombia 18
Costa Rica 18
Cuba none 16
Dominican Republic 18 16 / None(parent authorization) Currently a ban on public serving and selling alcohol after 2AM
Ecuador 18
Guatemala 18 It is illegal to serve alcohol after 1 AM.
Haiti 16
Honduras 18
Jamaica 18
Mexico 18 Drinking in the streets or inside a vehicle is illegal.
Nicaragua 18
Panama 18
Paraguay 21, 18 21 in restaurants and bars and 18 to buy in supermarkets.
Peru 18
Trinidad and Tobago 18
United States
(50 States and D.C.)
21 The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 states that revenue will be withheld 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 whether food is being served). Contrary to popular belief, since the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, few states specifically prohibit minors' and young adults' consumption of alcohol in private settings. As of January 1, 2007, 14 states and the District of Columbia ban underage consumption outright, 19 states do not specifically ban underage consumption, and an additional 27 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.
Puerto Rico (U.S.) 18 The legal BAC limit for intoxication while driving is 0.08.
US Virgin Islands (U.S.) 18
Uruguay 18
Venezuela 18

Asia

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking Age Purchase Age
Armenia none
Azerbaijan 18
Bahrain 18
Bangladesh illegal Alcoholic beverages are allowed for foreigners only and also served in hotels and restaurants but otherwise for Muslims, it's illegal.
Bali, Indonesia none 15
Brunei illegal Muslims are not allowed to drink or possess alcohol, non-Muslim residents and visitors may import small amounts of alcohol for personal consumption. Most restaurants will allow non-Muslim customers to drink their own brought in wine on premises with no corking fee. Public sale of alcohol is illegal.
Cambodia none
People's Republic of China 18 Introduced in January, 2006.
Georgia none 16
Hong Kong 18
India 18-25 (varies between states). Consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the states of Gujarat, Manipur and Mizoram. The legal drinking age in Tamil Nadu is 21.
Indonesia (excluding Bali) 21
Iraq 18 18 years old or above is required to purchase alcohol
Iran illegal Only alcohol used for Jewish or Christian religious ceremonies is allowed.
Israel none 18
Jordan 18
Japan 20 Regulated by underage drinking prohibition law (未成年者飲酒禁止法 miseinensha inshu kinshi hou). (Alcohol vending machines widely available.)
Kuwait illegal Selling alcohol is illegal.
Lebanon 18
Macau none none
Malaysia none 18 The sale of alcohol to Muslims is illegal, as is consumption of alcohol by Muslims in public. However, non-Muslims who are 18 years old or over are allowed to buy and drink alcohol.
Mongolia 18
Myanmar No age limit for drinking.
Nepal 18
Oman 21 Very few (if any) establishments will serve alcohol during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
North Korea (DPRK) 17 Alcohol may legally be consumed or purchased only on Saturdays.
Pakistan 21 Illegal for Muslims. Forbidden by Sharia (Islamic Law, with qur'anic and other traditional legal inspirations) but can be purchased in some areas of Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad.
Philippines none 18 (16)
Qatar 18
Russia 18
Saudi Arabia illegal Forbidden by Sharia (Islamic Law, with qur'anic and other traditional legal inspirations). Offenders are typically punished with lashes.
Singapore 18
South Korea 19 Legal ages are reckoned "from birth", rather than East Asian age reckoning. South Koreans are 20 or 21 in their own reckoning when they reach legal drinking age.
Sri Lanka 18
Taiwan 18 *It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to consume alcohol.
  • Parents, guardians, and others taking care of people under 18 shall prohibit underage drinking, or risk administrative fines of 10000 to 50000 new Taiwan dollars when the situations are serious.
  • One shall not supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 6. A violator shall be administratively fined 3000 to 15000 new Taiwan dollars.

Thailand 18 One needs to be 20 years old to get into clubs and bars.
United Arab Emirates 21 Dubai laws state that no person under the age of 16 may be in a place serving alcohol after 18:00. Alcohol is served only in restaurants and bars attached to hotels. Alcohol is prohibited in Sharjah.
Vietnam 15 18 People under 18 can buy alcohol but in order to purchase alcohol that has more than 4.5 percent alcohol concentration, you have to be more than 25 years old.

Europe

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking Age Purchase Age
Albania none
Austria 16, 18 for distilled beverages in some states 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. Enforcement in super markets is quite strict while in restaurants and bars enforcement is quite lax especially for beer and wine.
Belarus 18
Belgium 16; 18 for strong spirits (20%+) No minimum age to drink in private.
Bosnia and Herzegovina No minimum age inside or outside bars. Around 5% of 13 year olds drink alcohol more than once a week, less than half average rate across the European Union.
Bulgaria 18
Croatia 18
Cyprus 12
Czech Republic 18
Denmark None 16 in shops, 18 if served To buy and drink alcohol in bars you need to be 18, however there is no drinking age outside the bars, and an adult can buy alcohol for you. 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 they are identified having sold alcohol to an underage, they are fined. A national ID-card can be obtained in the local town hall in order for the youth to verify their age in shops. This card is rarely used though, since a passport or moped-licence can be used.
Estonia 18 It is illegal to sell alcohol in shops from 20.00 to 08.00.
Finland No legal drinking age 18 (up to 22% ABV in stores and all alcohol in bars), 20 (all alcohol); alcohol may not be sold to intoxicated customers. Beer, cider and alcopops containing up to 4.7% alcohol can be bought in any store, whilst any beverages exceeding that limit must be purchased at Alko. Although consumption by minors is not prohibited, it is strictly limited to certain rare situations because of various statutes regarding possession and offering. Because of this, legal drinking age is often perceived to be 18 by the general public. Purchase age also applies to possession.
France 16; for drinking strong liquor on premises: 18 It is not customary to request identification, unless the person is manifestly of inappropriate age. It is, however, a crime to sell alcohol to a minor under 16. It is illegal for someone under the age of 16 to be at a bar without an adult, even if drinking a non-alcoholic drink.
Germany 16, 18 for distilled beverages Possession or consumption of alcohol by minors is not outlawed, but it is illegal to sell them alcohol or let them drink in public. "Normal" alcoholic beverages (not distilled beverages) may be consumed by youths between 14 and 16 in public when in presence of a legal guardian; drinking in private is not controlled. The restrictions on distilled beverages apply also to mixed drinks containing them.
Gibraltar none 16 No legal consumption age but it is illegal to supply alcohol to under 16s, including in private homes.
Greece 14 17
Hungary none 18 Raised to 18 from previous 14 in 2002. However many store owners believe that the minimum age is 14. A study concluded that 54 percent of establishments sell alcohol to minors.
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 in public, none in private 18 By law, only a passport, driving licence or a Garda age card is accepted as proof of age (although not always asked for in practice). ID is required to enter clubs or bars after 21:00. Purchasing alcohol for a minor is illegal. It is illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk. Furthermore, I.D. is rarely requested in restaurants for the purchase of alcoholic beverages.
Isle of Man 5 18 (12) As the United Kingdom
Italy none in private. 16 in public. 16 There is no law stating a limit of age for drinking any kind of alcoholic drink, art 689 Codice Penale forbid serving alcoholic drinks to minor of 16 in public places like restaurants, pubs, etc. A proposal to increase purchasing age to 18 has been rejected by parliament in 2007
Liechtenstein 16 for wine, beer and cider
18 for spirits & spirit-based beverages. eg. alcopops
Wine, beer and ciders as well as some other party drinks which may not contain spirits can be purchased by the age of 16. Spirits as well as alcopops can be sold only to people above the age of 18.
Luxembourg 16
Latvia 18
Lithuania 18
Macedonia 18
Malta none 16
Moldova No minimum age (beer),
18 (wine and spirits)
Montenegro none 18
Netherlands none 16 (under 15% ABV),
18 (15% ABV and over)
If a shop fails to ask for an ID-card and they are identified having sold alcohol to an underage, they are fined. No minimum age to drink in private with a parent/guardian.
Norway none 18 (under 22% ABV),
20 (over 22% ABV)
Beer, cider and alcopops containing up to 4.7% alcohol can be bought in most supermarkets, whilst any beverages exceeding that limit must be purchased at Vinmonopolet. A minor buying or attempting to buy alcohol is never held criminally responsible. An adult caught buying alcohol to a minor risks fine or prison at worst. 4.7% is only sold between 08.00 and 20.00 in weekdays and 08.00-18.00 Saturdays(closed at Sundays), and municipalities can choose to have even more limited sale hours. Drinking in public poses you in a high risk of getting a fine, and also get it on your police record for a few years. There is big difference between how the police act upon public drinkers from one part of the country to another. Southwestern Norway cops are very strict, while in northern parts of Norway the police can be more forgiving.
Poland 18 Selling alcohol to people who are already drunk is illegal.
Portugal 16 Selling alcohol to people who are already drunk is illegal.
Romania none 18 Sale of all distilled spirits is illegal for those under 18. Advertising distilled alcohol is forbidden during the day (between 5:00 and 22:00). All restrictions apply on sale and distribution to underage persons, not consumption.
Russia 18 Although there is an age limit, it's quite easy for underaged people to buy alcohol. Alcohol is sold to almost anyone, as is traditional in West Asian and Eastern European countries.
Serbia none 18
Slovakia none 18 Only the seller can be punished.
Slovenia none 18
Spain No longer 16. Now 18. 18 No longer regional drinking age in the Autonomous Community of Castile and León, 16 for low alcoholic beverages (less than 18%), But in southern Spain very easy to drink and purchase alcohol in any bar at any age. Some establishments still serve alcoholic beverages to people aged 16 in certain parts of Spain such as Murcia and surrounding areas; although most bars do stop people under the age of 18 from ordering drinks inside the bar after a certain time of night, these people then have to order drinks from a hatch style bar on the outside of the actual building
Sweden 18 (bars and restaurants) 20 (Systembolaget stores) 18 (beer with 2.25% - 3.5% ABV in normal shops) See also alcohol in Sweden. Bars/clubs often voluntarily choose to have higher age limits than 18, commonly 20 or 23.
Switzerland 16 for wine, beer and cider
16-18 (varies from canton to canton) for spirits & spirit-based beverages ie. alcopops
Switzerland prohibits minors to buy alcohol, but there is no age restriction for the consumption of alcohol. Wine, beer and ciders as well as some other party drinks can be purchased by the age of 16. Spirits as well as alcopops can be sold only to people above the age of 18. If a shop fails to request an ID from the customers, it can be fined.
Turkey 11 18 People under 11 years old are allowed to drink non-distilled beverages while being accompanied by parents.
Ukraine 18
United Kingdom 5 (Children and Young Persons Act 1933), 16 (Beer/Wine/Cider in Pub/Restaurant if served with a meal and an adult orders it), Otherwise 18 18 It is only illegal for those aged 5-17 to drink alcohol on licensed premises (e.g. a pub or restaurant); they may legally drink alcohol in private,
16 (liqueur chocolates)
The legal age to purchase alcohol is 18. People aged 16 and 17, may consume wine, beer or cider with a table meal, provided they are with an adult and an adult orders it. (England & Wales only, Scotland no adult required to be present). The legal age for the purchase of liqueur chocolates is 16. Children under 5 must not be given alcohol unless under medical supervision or in an emergency (Children and Young Persons Act 1933). You may not buy alcohol for a young person on licensed premises. All off-sales are advised to ask for photographic ID if the person looks under 21 (although many major supermarkets are now asking for ID if the customer appears to be under 25). Plans to raise the off licence to purchase age to 21 years in Scotland, as well as some councils. Purchasing alcohol on behalf of a minor is illegal in England and Wales. In Scotland, from 2009 purchasing alcohol for any minor will be made illegal.

Oceania

Country / region De jure Notes
Drinking Age Purchase Age
American Samoa (U.S.) 18
Australia 18 Liquor laws vary by state. It is illegal to buy, drink or possess alcohol if under 18 on licensed premises, but states allow drinking or possessing alcohol on private premises for people under the age of 18 (under the supervision of an adult[s]). In New South Wales there is no law against minors possessing or drinking alcohol on private premises, but there are laws against supplying or selling alcohol to a minor, as well as against minors "carrying away" alcohol from a licensed club.Minors may be on licensed premises accompanied by a parent or guardian (but not purchase alcohol) and parents can not provide alcohol with a meal on licensed premises. In Victoria, if a minor is caught with alcohol it will be confiscated and guardians notified of the offense, and a fine may occur. It is also illegal to provide minors with alcohol, and one can be fined by it if caught in the act. It is illegal to buy alcohol if already drunk, and to supply alcohol to such a person. In all States, it is illegal to drink in a vehicle and drivers cannot operate a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration level higher than 0.05 when on their open license. Provisional and learner drivers must not drive with any detectable blood-alcohol present. Commercial drivers have a limit of 0.02 whilst working. (New South Wales)
Fiji 21 Legal Drinking Age was increased from 18 to 21 in 2006 via the LIQUOR ACT 2006
Guam (U.S.) 18
Kiribati 21 Liquor Ordinance (Cap.50)
New Zealand None 18 Alcohol can be sold only by licensed premises, but there is no obligation to serve any person. It is illegal to purchase alcohol if one is already drunk. Drinking on public transport is prohibited unless the vehicle (e.g. ship, train) holds a liquor license. Minors can drink alcohol in a public place if they are accompanied and it is provided by their parent or guardian; this includes licensed premises, such as restaurants, and at private social gatherings, but excludes designated restricted areas in pubs and bars, where persons under the age of 18 are not permitted. ** Minors (under 18s) can be fined if they drink alcohol in public places, without a parent or guardian present. While there are extensive laws prohibiting alcohol purchase by any person under 18 years of age, to actually drink alcohol (without the element of purchasing) is NOT currently an offence. Usually any person under 18 who is found consuming alcohol in a public place without a guardian will have the drink removed and if drunk will be returned to their home, or be required to stay at a police station until sobering up.. On 8 November 2006 the New Zealand Parliament rejected a bill to return the legal age to 20 after significant lobbying by the Keepit18 group and others.
Northern Mariana Islands (U.S.) 21
Palau 18
Papua New Guinea none
Samoa 18
Solomon Islands 18
Tonga 18
Tokelau 18
Vanuatu 18

See also

References

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