What is the Drinking Age in Countries Around the World?
Around the world, many young people eagerly anticipate the day they will finally be of legal drinking age and allowed to purchase alcohol. Many countries have established a minimum age under which a person can consume or purchase alcohol. This age varies somewhat depending on cultural and social norms, generally falling between 16 and 25 years old. Let’s examine the drinking ages throughout the world in more detail.
Drinking Age in the Middle East
United Arab Emirates
Because expats make up 89 percent of the UAE population, the country has continually adjusted its previously conservative alcohol regulations since 2018. To drink lawfully in the UAE, a person must be at least 21 years of age, and a Ministry of Tourism bylaw prohibits hotels from serving alcohol to people under the age of 21. Alcohol can only be drunk in licensed public areas or in private. Federal Law No. 3 of 1987 of the Penal Code states that anyone caught selling alcohol to someone deemed underage is prosecuted.
Drug and alcohol violations are viewed as crimes against God in this nation, where Sharia and Islamic laws are strictly upheld. Saudi Arabia has harsh penalties for importing, manufacturing, possessing, and using alcohol. Those found guilty face long prison sentences, large fines, and even deportation from the nation. Trading in alcohol involves a stiffer term, and individuals selling alcohol to Saudi nationals have received harsh punishments. Import restrictions apply to liquor, cooking wines, wine-making kits, alcohol-distilling equipment, as well as literature that teaches how to produce such beverages.
In Turkey, the legal drinking age is 18 years old. Store owners must post signs and labels stating they cannot sell tobacco products and alcoholic beverages to anybody under 18. Persons under 18 cannot work in the marketing and sales of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. Recently, the government under President Erdogan has tightened alcohol restrictions in an attempt to move Islam even closer to the center of national affairs. During Ramadan, the country prohibits selling alcohol, and shuts down all alcohol counters.
Iran’s official religion is Islam, hence alcoholic beverages are not produced anywhere in the country. This means that there are no liquor stores, bars, or nightclubs. Iran prohibits the transportation, importation, sale, and consumption of alcohol. This also applies to tourists who are not permitted to consume or carry alcohol in the country. However, there is a small exception that allows certain religious minorities to consume alcohol.
Egypt’s legal drinking age is 21 years old. The country is predominantly Muslim, and many Muslims do not consume alcoholic beverages. Generally, Egyptians have a more liberal and forgiving attitude for alcohol consumed by non-Muslims and tourists. Restaurants, bars, cafés, and liquor stores sell alcoholic beverages across Cairo. Alcohol consumption in public is inappropriate, if not offensive. The laws regarding alcohol are quite lax compared to other Islamic nations, with the exception of the month of Ramadan. During this time it is completely forbidden and only people with foreign passports can purchase it.
Bahrain has an 18-year-old minimum drinking age, though military and government personnel must be at least 21. Non-Muslims can buy alcohol in designated stores, but one cannot consume alcohol anywhere in public. Alcohol consumption is punishable under Bahrain’s Penal Code, specifically Articles 306 and 307.
In Oman, the legal drinking age is 21 years old. It is a serious offense in Omani law to consume alcohol in public or drive while intoxicated. Hotels, clubs, and restaurants can serve alcohol. Passengers under the influence of alcohol who travel through Omani ports may be arrested.
Drinking Age in Asia
Individuals under the age of 20 cannot consume alcohol, and violators face legal consequences. Riding a bicycle drunk is also a serious offense, making Japanese alcohol laws some of the world’s most restrictive. Individuals must pay a fine of up to 1,000,000 yen or serve up to five years in prison if found in violation of alcohol laws. However, there are no tight prohibitions or limits on the availability of alcohol in Japan. In fact, most Japanese supermarkets sell alcohol.
The drinking age in Singapore is 18 years old. Only adults over the age of 18 can consume alcohol in venues with licenses. Individuals under the age of 18 can purchase some food products containing alcohol, such as alcoholic ice cream. To purchase alcohol, an individual must show proof of age in the form of an NRIC identification card, a driver’s license, or a passport.
Up until 2006 there was no minimum drinking age in China. However, a law in 2006 passed prohibiting people under 18 from consuming alcohol. Alcohol is available in most stores seven days a week and can be drunk both publicly and privately. Alcohol is widely available and advertised.
South Korea has a legal drinking age of 20 years old. However, to properly understand the law concerning the legal drinking age in Korea, one must first understand the Korean age-counting system. Through an unusual and unique way to count age everyone in Korea is one or two years older than their birth year. For non-residents, the drinking age is 19 years old.
State-by-state, the legal drinking age in India ranges from 18 to 25 years. The government recently approved a new excise policy that allows the opening of new stores and more extensive sales of alcohol. Bihar, Gujarat, Tripura, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, and Nagaland forbid alcohol. Additionally, it is illegal in several Manipur districts. Specific laws govern each Indian state. The Uttar Pradesh Excise Act 1910, for instance, regulates the alcohol industry in India’s largest state. Underage males and females cannot work in places that sell alcohol under the Act. Another intriguing provision in the Act is the prohibition on liquor advertising.
The Prohibition Order of 1979 made drinking alcohol illegal for Muslims in Pakistan. Up until 2009 the punishment for consuming alcohol was 80 lashes. It is, however, served to foreigners in five-star hotels.
In Thailand, the legal drinking age is 20 years old. Public locations such as parks and schools prohibit the consumption of alcohol. There is also a time limit for stores to sell alcohol. During the pandemic, Thai authorities noticed an uptick in the online sale of alcohol that was unrestricted by location or age. This scenario makes existing laws difficult to enforce. New regulations now carry a maximum fine of 10,000 baht ($320) and a prison sentence of up to six months.
In 2017, Malaysia raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 21 years old.
Drinking Age in Europe
Although Russia has a strong drinking culture, the government has recently enacted legislation to curb this trend. While the legal drinking age is 18 years old, there is a government push to change the age to 21. Large supermarkets must carefully examine an individual’s ID to determine their exact age and whether they can purchase a particular type of alcohol. Different cities allow for the sale of alcohol at different times. In Moscow, for example, it is illegal to sell alcohol between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. Alcohol consumption in public places is also prohibited, but permitted in bars and restaurants. When someone is caught drinking in public, they must pay a fine ranging from 500 to 1500 roubles ($8-25).
The legal drinking age is between 16 and 18 years old. Towns and cities set the closing hours of bars rather than the state.
People under the age of 18 cannot consume alcohol, and it is illegal to sell, purchase, or drink alcohol on licensed premises. If you are 16 or 17, you can serve alcohol in a restaurant as long as the license holder or bar manager has approved the sale.
In France, the legal drinking age is 18. France generally takes a liberal stance on alcohol. France has gradually increased restrictions on drinking and smoking in public places over the last three decades, banning alcohol advertising on television in 1991.
If you are under 18, buying alcoholic beverages is prohibited. A restaurant owner who sells alcohol to minors under the age of 18 or to anyone with a mental disability faces a fine and imprisonment. However, the minor is not punished.
The legal age to buy alcohol in Spain is 18 years old, just like most other European countries. This also involves buying alcohol in clubs, bars, shops, and restaurants. Individuals under the age of 18 can buy beer or wine when they are with their parents. However, there is no minimum drinking age at home. Some of the strictest alcohol laws in Spain pertain to drinking and driving. Compared to the UK, where the limit is 0.8, Spain’s limit is 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood. Drunk driving has a multitude of punishments; for major offences, offenders can get three to six months in jail, community service, or a license suspension.
The Dutch Licensing & Catering Act established the country’s 18-year-old minimum drinking age. Alcohol drinking and possession in public places have the same legal age restrictions. Retailers may request identification from customers who appear to be under 25. Minors under the age of 18 who are caught with alcoholic beverages in public places may be fined. The current fine is €45 for minors aged 12 to 15 and €90 for minors aged 16 to 17. Dutch legislation does not restrict children from consuming alcohol in private residences. Anybody with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.5 per thousand liters cannot drive.
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Drinking Age in the United States
Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) laws establish the legal age at which a person can purchase alcoholic beverages. In the US, the MLDA is 21 years old. Each state had its own minimum drinking age regulations before the implementation of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984. The earliest alcohol prohibitions in America were “blue laws,” which imposed restrictions on Sunday activities. Due to concerns about excessive drinking or for religious, moral, health, or public safety grounds, certain states have passed legislation limiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
Drinking alcohol safely requires experience, and inexperienced drinkers are frequently putting themselves and others in danger. The minimum drinking age helps prevent this.
Even experienced drinkers can make mistakes when it comes to alcohol. As a result, it is critical that every individual consumes alcohol responsibly.
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