At What Age Can You Have Your First Alcoholic Drink?
Alcohol is consumed by people around the world, for it has a strong effect on the mind. People tend to celebrate or relax after a sip of their favorite alcoholic beverage. Yet, it is always a question of wonderment that how much of its consumption is too much, as there are many people who later find themselves addicted.
“Minimum legal drinking age” is set by government of a country to restrict youngsters from falling into the habit at an innocent age, to avoid reckless incidents under the influence of alcohol and many other reasons. However, the age is not standardized across the world as each nation has its own set of rules and laws. It may range from as young as 16 in some nations to around 25 in others.
There are countries where consuming alcohol is outright illegal. If any person defies the law, he or she may even land behind the bars. On the other hand, there are countries where the laws regarding intake of alcohol vary from one region to another. Majority of these nations are Muslim-dominated and include countries like Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, Libya and few others.
Back in 1984, National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed in USA, which established the legal drinking age at 21. However, it was not always the same. Prior to 1984, in some states the age limit was 18, 19 and 20 as well. When the research noticed an increase in accidents among the young people, it was linked to their alcohol intake, and the new age limit was set.
International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) presents data regarding the changing norms and laws regarding alcohol consumption on a regular basis. According to it, there are still many countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Gambia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and Luxembourg, where legal drinking age is 16.
In the most populous country China, citizens are allowed to have their first sip of alcohol as soon as they become an adult, that is, at the age of 18. In fact, in majority of the nations around the world, 18 is the legal drinking age. Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Denmark, Peru, the Philippines and many other nations come under the status quo.
In India, laws pertaining to alcohol are quite inconsistent depending on the region. The minimum legal drinking age in most of the states is 21, but in a few states like Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Sikkim, a person can even start drinking as early as 18. In the capital, Delhi and other states like Haryana, Meghalaya and Punjab, a person has to be 25 to enjoy their first alcoholic drink. Meanwhile, there are also certain states where alcohol is illegal, for example, Gujrat.
Find the table here to know the minimum drinking age of alcohol around the world.
|Country||Legal Drinking Age (On Premises)||Notes|
|Antigua and Barbuda||16|
|Burundi||16||unless accompanied by parent|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||18|
|Denmark||18||Off premise: 16 for beer and wine; 18 for alcoholic beverages containing 16.5% or more alcohol per volume.|
|Finland||18||18 for beverages up to 22% ABV; 20 for other beverages|
|Greece||18||Off-premise: 18 for spirits at all outlets; 18 for other alcoholic beverages at specialized retailers [not regulated at grocery stores and other types of outlets]|
|Papua New Guinea||18|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||18|
|South Africa||18||The National Liquor Policy, under discussion in 2015, proposes to raise the on- and off- premise legal purchasing ages to 21.|
|Sweden||18||18 for beer of 3.5% ABV or lower, 20 otherwise|
|Trinidad and Tobago||18|
|Afghanistan||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Bahrain||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Brunei||[all sale is prohibited]||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.”|
|Iran||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Iraq||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Kuwait||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Libya||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Maldives||[all sale is prohibited]||prohibition applies to citizens|
|Mauritania||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Pakistan||[all sale is prohibited]||non-Muslim citizens may possess alcohol to be used in accordance with religious ceremonies|
|Qatar||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Saudi Arabia||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Sudan||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Yemen||[all sale is prohibited]|
|Sao Tome and Principe||[none]|
|Switzerland||[varies by beverage and jurisdiction]||18 for spirits
16 or 18 for beer and wine depending on the Canton
|Belgium||[varies by beverage]||Both on- and off-premise: 18 for spirits, 16 for other alcohol beverages|
|Germany||[varies by beverage]||16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits
Those below 18 years of age are not permitted in premises licensed as bars, nightclubs and similar entertainment venues.
|Liechtenstein||[varies by beverage]||18 for spirits and alcopops; 16 for other alcoholic beverages|
|Norway||[varies by beverage]||Both on- and off-premise sales:
18 for beverages of 0.7-22% ABV
20 for beverages of 22% ABV and above
|Zambia||[varies by beverage]||on-premise: 18 for beverages of 3%ABV or higher except traditional beer; 16 for traditional beer
on-premise: 14 for beverages of 3%ABV or higher except traditional beer; 16 for traditional beer
|Austria||[varies by jurisdiction and by beverage]||Both on- and off-premise: Each federal state prohibits sale of alcohol beverages to anyone under 16 years of age.
Carinthia, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tirol, and Voralberg also prohibit sale of spirits and mixed drinks (whether pre-mixed drinks or cocktails) to anyone under 18 years of age.
|India||[varies by jurisdiction]||18 in Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, and Puducherry
21 in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Orissa (Odisha), Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal
25 in Haryana, Meghalaya, Punjab, Delhi
[all sale is prohibited] in Bihar, Gujarat, Manipur, Nagaland, Lakshadweep
|Indonesia||[varies by jurisdiction]||all sale is prohibited in Banda Aceh and Papua;
21 elsewhere for both on- and off-premise
|Nigeria||[varies by jurisdiction]|
|Canada||[varies by province]||18 in Manitoba, Alberta, and Quebec;
19 in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, and Yukon.
|United Arab Emirates||[varies by religion and jurisdiction]|
|Bangladesh||[varies by religion]||Alcohol may not be purchased by Muslims.|
|Comoros||[varies by religion]||sale to Muslims is prohibited|
|Malaysia||[varies by religion]||sale to Muslims is prohibited; 21 otherwise for on- and off-premise|
|Morocco||[varies by religion]||sale to Muslims is prohibited|
|Guyana||18 *||except 16 for wine or malt liquor to be consumed with a meal|
|Uganda||18 *||*16 for beer, wine, perry, porter, cider, or native liquor with a meal in a meal-service section of the premises|
|United Kingdom||18 *||*16 for beer, cider, and wine with a meal and bought by and accompanied by an adult. This does not apply in Northern Ireland.|
|Australia||18*||Regulated at state / territory level. Exceptions may apply if accompanied by a responsible adult.|
|Cameroon||18*||*unless accompanied by person aged 21 or above in a supervisory role|
|New Zealand||18*||does not apply if accompanied bypermitting parent or legal guardian|
|Spain||18*||*Baleares Islands autonomous region does not have specific regulation limiting the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors.|
|Korea, Republic of||19*||Being 19 is defined, for the purposes of this legislation, as effective from January 1st of the 19th year after one’s birth|
|Samoa||21 *||*unless at a food and beverage establishment and accompanied by parent|
|United States||21 *||See the NIAAA Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) for more details
* 18 for on-premise and off-premise sales in Puerto Rico (Law 118, 18 October 1984)