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Minimum legal drinking age is the age at which a person can legally consume, or purchase alcoholic beverages. However, there is no standard drinking age 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.
Some countries have made consuming alcohol outright illegal and defying the law may even land you behind the bars, whereas in some others the norms vary from one region to other. So, just read on and get to know what is the legal age to consume alcohol around the world.
According to an interesting data prepared by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), in Antigua and Barbuda, Burundi, Cuba, Dominica, Gambia, Grenada, Luxembourg, etc., the legal drinking age is 16 (on premises); however, in Malta, a person should at least be of 17 years before he can have a peg (or two) of alcoholic beverage.
As per the data, a significant number of countries allow their citizens to have the first taste of alcohol at the age of 18. Some of the countries in this category are Algeria, Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, Peru, the Philippines and many other nations. In South Korea, a person needs to be at least 19 years of age before he can consume alcohol.
Countries like Japan, Iceland, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and a few others allow their citizens to have the first sip of alcohol at the age of 20, while in nations like the United States, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Mongolia, Oman and others, the person will have to be at least 21. As per the IARD data, in some nations consuming alcohol is illegal. These are nations with large Muslim populations and include Yemen, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, Libya and a few others.
In some nations, laws pertaining to alcohol can become quite inconsistent depending on the region you are in. In India, the minimum legal drinking age in a majority of states is 21. However, in a few states a person can start drinking as early as 18, while in others he or she will have to wait till the age of 25. Meanwhile, there are certain states where alcohol is illegal.
Similarly, in Canada, some provinces have the minimum legal drinking age as 18, while others have it as 19. In some countries like Belgium, one can consume alcoholic beverages at 16, but he or she has to be at least 18 to consume spirits.
|Country||Legal Drinking Age (On Premises)||Notes|
|Antigua and Barbuda||16|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||18|
|Finland||18||18 for beverages up to 22% ABV; 20 for other beverages|
|Lao People’s Democratic Republic||18|
|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|
|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 by permitting 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)
|Brunei||[illegal]||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.”|
|Maldives||[illegal]||Prohibition applies to citizens|
|Pakistan||[illegal]||Non-Muslim citizens may possess alcohol to be used in accordance with religious ceremonies|
|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
|Austria||[varies by jurisdiction and by beverage]||Both on- and off-premise: 18 for spirits and mixed drinks containing spirits; 16 for beer, wine, champagne
Burgenland, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna specifically prohibit serving alcoholic beverages to those under 16 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
[Illegal] in Bihar, Gujarat, Manipur, Nagaland, Lakshadweep
|Indonesia||[varies by jurisdiction]||Illegal 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]||Illegal for Muslims|
|Malaysia||[varies by religion]||Illegal for Muslims; 18 otherwise for on- and off-premise|
|Morocco||[varies by religion]||Illegal for Muslims|
(Data sourced from International Alliance for Responsible Drinking)