Legal drinking ages around the world vary greatly. Most such laws apply only to drinking alcoholic beverages in public locations. The only countries with a minimum legal age for consuming alcohol at home are England and Wales. They prohibit drinking below the age of six.

          Overview

  1. – Cross The Evanstonian Background
  2. World Legal Drinking Ages List
  3. Alcohol Prohibition
  4. Legal Drinking Ages in U.S.
  5. Resources

I. Background

The average (mean) minimum legal drinking age around the globe is 10.3. Ninety-six (96) countries/possessions in the world have a minimum drinking age of zero. And of those that have higher legal drinking ages, the average age is 18.6.

The enforcement of minimum legal drinking ages also varies widely between countries. And often within countries. In many nations, officers generally don’t enforce the law in the absence of abuse.

World-wide, the average age at which drinking alcohol first occurs is 12 years. About 80% of young people begin drinking alcoholic beverages regularly by age 15 or younger. That’s according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Drinking Age Laws

It’s important to distinguish between two types of age laws. The first sets minimum ages for drinking alcoholic beverages.

Countries may have age laws for drinking under various conditions. For example, for drinking with parents, in public, on private property, with parental approval, etc. Or they may combine different conditions. For example, drinking on private property with parental approval without their presence. Or drinking in public with a parent. 

The second sets minimum ages for buying alcohol beverages. Again, laws may set conditions. For example, a person may legally buy low alcohol proof beverages but not those of high proof. Or they may buy alcohol as part of police entrapment.

Very commonly, countries or territories set minimum legal alcohol purchase ages without any minimum age for its consumption. Many listings of drinking ages actually use purchase ages for drinking ages! That is, compilers falsely assume that purchase ages and drinking ages are the same. 

Therefore, many compilers incorrectly list countries that have no minimum drinking age as having them. This leads to much unnecessary confusion. Especially, when the lists carry titles such as “World Drinking Ages,” “Drinking Ages in Different Countries,” and so on.

II. World Legal Drinking Ages List

No Minimum Legal Drinking Ages

  1. Angola
  2. Anguilla
  3. Armenia
  4. Azerbaijan
    Belgium
  5. Bahrain
  6. Barbados
  7. – Cross The Evanstonian Belarus
  8. Belgium
  9. Benin
  10. Bolivia
  11. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  12. Botswana
  13. Brazil (19 in  some provinces)
  14. Bulgaria
  15. Burkina Faso
  16. Cambodia
  17. Cape Verde
  18. Czechnia
  19. China
  20. Columbia
  21. Comoros
  22. Costa Rica
    Denmark
  23. Croatia
  24. Cuba
  25. Cyprus
  26. Denmark
  27. Djibouti
  28. Dominican Republic
  29. Ecuador
  30. El Salvador
  31. Equatorial Guinea
  32. Eritrea
  33. – Cross The Evanstonian Ethiopia
  34. Gambia
    Greece
  35. Georgia
  36. Gibraltar
  37. Greece
  38. Guinea-Bissau
  39. Haiti
  40. Hong Kong
  41. Iceland
  42. Indonesia
  43. Israel
  44. Italy
    – Cross The Evanstonian Italy
  45. Jamaica
  46. Kenya
  47. Kosovo
  48. Latvia
  49. Lebanon
  50. Liberia
  51. Luxembourg
  52. Macau
  53. Macedonia
  54. Madagascar
  55. Malawi
    Moldova
  56. Mali
  57. Fine Pictures Security Prints Card Art Archives Social Stock Images Photography
  58. Mauritius
  59. Moldova
  60. Morocco
  61. Myanmar
  62. Namibia
  63. Nepal
  64. Netherlands
  65. New  Zealand
  66. Nicaragua
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    Norway
  67. Niger
  68. Nigeria
  69. Northern Ireland
  70. Norway
  71. Panama
  72. Peru
  73. Poland
  74. Portugal
  75. Romania
  76. Russia
  77. Rwanda
  78. Sao Tome & Principia
  79. Senegal
  80. Serbia
  81. Sierra Leone
  82. Slovenia
  83. Solomon  Islands
  84. South Korea
  85. Spain
  86. Switzerland
    Turks & Caicos Islands
  87. Trinidad and Tobago
  88. Timor-Leste
  89. Togo
  90. Turks & Caicos Islands
  91. Uganda
  92. Uruguay
  93. Uzbekistan
  94. Venezuela
  95. Vietnam
  96. Western  Sahara
  97. Zimbabwe

Minimum Drinking Age of 15

  1. Central African Republic

Minimum Drinking Age of 16

  1. Austria (18 in some areas and varies by beverage)
    Dominica
  2. British Virgin Islands
  3. Congo
  4. Dominica
  5. Germany (varies by beverage)
  6. Guyana (varies by beverage)
  7. Liechtenstein (varies by beverage)
  8. Lithuania
  9. Palestinian Authority
  10. Saint Lucia
  11. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  12. San Marino
  13. Wales (age 5 in private)
  14. Zambia (varies by beverage)

Minimum Drinking Age of 17

  1. Malta

Minimum Drinking Age of 18

  1. Albania
  2. Andorra
  3. Angola
  4. Antigua and Barbuda
  5. Argentina
  6. Australia (varies by state)
  7. Bahamas
  8. Barundi (any age with parent)
  9. Belize
  10. Bermuda
  11. Canada (19 in many provinces)
  12. Chad (any age with parent)
  13. Chile
  14. England (age 5 in private)
  15. Estonia
  16. Falkland Islands
  17. Finland (varies by beverage)
  18. Fiji (lowered from 21)
  19. France (any age in private)
  20. Gabon
  21. – Cross The Evanstonian Grenada (any age in private)
  22. Guatemala
  23. Guyana (varies by beverage)
  24. Honduras
  25. Hungary
  26. India (varies by state)
  27. Ireland (any age in private residence)
  28. – Cross The Evanstonian Jordan
  29. Kyrgyzstan
  30. Lebanon (no enforcement generally)
  31. Lesoto
  32. Lithuania
  33. Mexico
  34. Mongolia
  35. Montenegro
  36. Mozambique
  37. Nepal
  38. North Korea
  39. Pakistan (for non-Muslims)
  40. Papua New Guinea
  41. Philippine
  42. Poland
  43. Puerto Rico
  44. Republic of Congo
  45. Samoa (any age with parent)
  46. Scotland (any age in private)
  47. Seychelles
  48. – Cross The Evanstonian Singapore (any age in private)
  49. Slovakia
  50. South Africa (any age with parent)
  51. South Sudan
  52. Swaziland
  53. Sweden (none for low proof beverages)
  54. Syria
  55. Taiwan
  56. Tanzania
  57. Thailand
  58. Tokelau
  59. – Cross The Evanstonian Tonga
  60. Turkey
  61. Turkmenistan
  62. Ukraine
  63. United Arab Emirates (varies by jurisdiction)
  64. U.S. Virgin Islands
  65. Vanuatu
  66. Zambia
  67. Minimum Drinking Age of 19
  68. Nicaragua
  69. – Cross The Evanstonian South Korea

Minimum Drinking Age of 20

  1. Iceland
  2. Japan
  3. Paraguay

Minimum Drinking Age of 21

  1. American Samoa
  2. Cameroon (18 with a 21 year old)
  3. – Cross The Evanstonian Congo – Brazzaville (18 with a 21 year old)
  4. Cote d’Ivoire
  5. Egypt
  6. Guam
  7. Indonesia
  8. Kazakhstan
  9. Kiribati
  10. Malasia
  11. Marshal Islands
  12. Micronesia
  13. Mongolia
  14. Nauru
  15. Nepal
  16. Northern Mariana Islands
  17. Palau
  18. Samoa (any age with parent)
  19. Sri Lanka
  20. U.S. (with many exceptions, see below)

III. Alcohol Prohibition

In addition, some countries prohibit alcohol for religious reasons.

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Algeria
  3. Bangladesh (no minimum age for non-Muslims)
  4. Brunei Darusssalem
  5. Iran
  6. Iraq
  7. Kuwait
  8. Libya
  9. Maldives (except for non-Muslim tourists)
  10. Mauritania
  11. Oman
  12. Pakistan (18 for non-Muslims)
  13. Qatar
  14. Saudi Arabia
  15. Somalia
  16. Sudan
  17. Tunisia

IV. Legal Drinking Ages in U.S

People commonly believe that the minimum drinking age in the U.S. is 21. However, people can legally drink below that age under many different circumstances.

The images Index fallout screenshots Of went into effect the following year. It requires all states to raise their minimum purchase and public possession of alcohol age to 21.

States that did not comply faced a reduction in highway funds. However, the law does not prohibit persons under 21 from drinking. The law also strictly defines “public possession.” It does not apply to possession for the following reasons.

          • An established religious purpose, when accompanied by a parent, spouse or guardian age 21 or older.
          • Medical purposes prescribed by a licensed physician. Or by a pharmacist, dentist, nurse, hospital or medical institution.
          • In private clubs or establishments.
          • During the course of employment by a licensed producer, wholesaler or retailer.

Many of the states that specifically prohibit drinking alcohol by those under age 21 have a variety of exceptions.

Some states allow underage consumption when a family member consents and/or is present. States vary widely regarding which relatives must consent or be present. Also, in what conditions those under 21 may drink.

Some states permit underage drinking on private property. In some states those under 21 may drink in any private location. In others, it’s only in private residences, or only in the home of a parent or guardian. Sometimes underage drinking requires the presence and/or consent of a parent or legal-age spouse.

Exceptions

The following map shows exceptions to the minimum age of 21 for drinking alcohol.

Note: This map is based on statutes and regulations only. It doesn’t include exceptions created by case law, custom, etc.

The problem of identifying the optimum minimum drinking age to reduce alcohol abuse is a serious one. It involves issues of freedom, responsibility, parental rights, religion, politics and many other realms of life.

The minimum drinking age of 21 in the U.S. appears to be not only ineffective but actually counter-productive. Congress passed it with the best of intentions. Nevertheless, it has had some of the worst of outcomes.

Choose Responsibility

Dr. John McCardell

In reaction to these problems, the president emeritus of Middlebury College, Dr. John McCardell, took actiion. He created the non-profit Choose Responsibility.

It’s to promote discussion and public debate about how best to reduce alcohol abuse. The group has suggested a number of ideas. Some of these are described below.

– Cross The Evanstonian It believes Congress should not penalize states having  pilot alcohol education programs. These would be based on a minimum drinking age of 18.

Thus, the organization believes the following.

          • A state should be able to present a plan for educating and licensing young adults age 18-20. The federal government should grant the state a waiver of the 10% highway penalty for five years.
          • States would collect data required to monitor the effects of the program.
          • States would submit these statistics to Congress. Also, they would submit an analysis of the effects of the program.
          • Individual state proposals would include the guidelines for eligibility and suspension of licenses.

Alcohol Education

Choose Responsibility also proposes a new approach to alcohol education. It would be similar to Drivers’ Education. The program would

          • Use certified alcohol educators. They would cover the legal, ethical, health and safety issues of drinking.
          • Give accurate alcohol education.
          • Consist of at least 40 hours of instruction. Most would be in the classroom. However, there would be enrichment. That might include attending DWI court hearings, safe ride taxi programs, community forums, etc.
          • Have a final exam that students must pass for licensing.
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The alcohol education course curriculum would:

          • Be based on reality.
          • Involve collaboration between state, school, and home.
          • Create a basis for responsible choices about alcohol. Responsible behavior would be part of provisional licensing for 18-20 year-old adults.
          • Be developed and implemented on a state-by-state basis.
          • Provide accurate, truthful, and unbiased alcohol education. It would seek only to promote responsible choices about alcohol.

License

Upon successful completion of the course, each student would receive a license. It would provide all the privileges and responsibilities of adult alcohol purchase, possession, and consumption of alcohol.

A majority of states already permit those under 21 to drink alcohol. For example, most states allow parents to provide their children with alcohol in the privacy of their own homes.

But in others, parents may not legally provide their children alcohol until they’re 21. Thus, those state laws hamper law-abiding parents. They can’t introducing their young adults to alcohol in a controlled home environment.

This typically relegates drinking “underground” where there is no responsible guidance. And, worse yet, peer pressure to abuse alcohol. Parents should be able to provide their own young adults alcohol to teach responsible drinking.

Research suggests that these changes could reduce alcohol abuse. Of course, those with a vested interest oppose even discussing any of these proposals. But reducing alcohol abuse is in the public interest. So let the discussion begin.

V. Resources on Minimum Legal Drinking Ages

Is the National Drinking Age [in U.S.] Doing More Harm than Good?

Minimum Legal Drinking Age Debate.

Legal Drinking Age Not Up for Debate. PDF download

Undeage Drinking.

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Why the Drinking Age Should be Lowered.

Amethyst Initiative. The Amethyst Initiative is a program of college and university presidents. It promotes the open discussion and debate about the effectiveness of the age 21 minimum legal drinking age.

Please remember. Carefully follow legal drinking ages. Don’t use the information here to guide action. Laws often change and courts sometimes re-interpret them.