At What Age Can You Have Your First Alcoholic Drink? - Answers

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At What Age Can You Have Your First Alcoholic Drink?

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World Map depicting Minimum Legal Age for First Alcoholic Drink in Countries

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
Cuba 16
Dominica 16
Gambia 16
Grenada 16
Luxembourg 16
Saint Vincent 16
San Marino 16
Malta 17
Albania 18
Algeria 18
Andorra 18
Argentina 18
Armenia 18
Azerbaijan 18
Bahamas 18
Belarus 18
Belize 18
Bermuda 18
Bhutan 18
Bolivia 18
Bosnia and Herzegovina 18
Botswana 18
Brazil 18
Bulgaria 18
Cabo Verde 18
Cayman Islands 18
Chile 18
China 18
Colombia 18
Costa Rica 18
Croatia 18
Cyprus 18
Czechia 18
Denmark 18 Off premise: 16 for beer and wine; 18 for alcoholic beverages containing 16.5% or more alcohol per volume.
Dominican Republic 18
Ecuador 18
El Salvador 18
Eritrea 18
Estonia 18
Ethiopia 18
Fiji 18
Finland 18 18 for beverages up to 22% ABV; 20 for other beverages
France 18
Gabon 18
Georgia 18
Ghana 18
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]
Guatemala 18
Honduras 18
Hungary 18
Ireland 18
Israel 18
Italy 18
Jamaica 18
Jordan 18
Kenya 18
Kyrgyzstan 18
Laos 18
Latvia 18
Lebanon 18
Lesotho 18
Liberia 18
Lithuania 18
Macedonia 18
Malawi 18
Mauritius 18
Mexico 18
Moldova 18
Monaco 18
Montenegro 18
Mozambique 18
Myanmar 18
Namibia 18
Nepal 18
Netherlands 18
Nicaragua 18
Niger 18
Niue 18
Panama 18
Papua New Guinea 18
Peru 18
Philippines 18
Poland 18
Portugal 18
Romania 18
Russia 18
Rwanda 18
Saint Kitts and Nevis 18
Saint Lucia 18
Senegal 18
Serbia 18
Seychelles 18
Singapore 18
Slovakia 18
Slovenia 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.
Suriname 18
Swaziland 18
Sweden 18 18 for beer of 3.5% ABV or lower, 20 otherwise
Tajikistan 18
Tanzania 18
Trinidad and Tobago 18
Turkey 18
Turkmenistan 18
Ukraine 18
Uruguay 18
Vanuatu 18
Venezuela 18
Vietnam 18
Zimbabwe 18
Benin 20
Iceland 20
Japan 20
Paraguay 20
Thailand 20
Uzbekistan 20
Egypt 21
Kazakhstan 21
Kiribati 21
Marshall Islands 21
Mongolia 21
Nauru 21
Oman 21
Palau 21
Solomon Islands 21
Sri Lanka 21
Tonga 21
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]
Cambodia [none]
Djibouti [none]
Guinea Bissau [none]
Haiti [none]
Mali [none]
Sao Tome and Principe [none]
Sierra Leone [none]
Syria [none]
Timor-Leste [none]
Togo [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)

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