Drinking Ages around the World (or Lack Thereof)

By James Madeiros


The legal drinking age in the U.S. is widely known to be 21, a number that seems too random for many and fails to foster friendly feelings for any number of reasons.

Of course, one of those reasons may be because other countries scoff at such an antiquated age at which to allow citizens to start drinking. To be sure, there are only a handful of countries that prohibit drinking until its citizens are 21 years old, and that’s for countries that even have a legal limit. A few that don’t bother include Greece, Luxembourg, Nepal, Jamaica and Austria.

Countries that share the U.S. tradition of forcing people to wait until they’re 21 to both purchase and drink alcohol include Fiji, Indonesia, Micronesia, Palau and Sri Lanka. Perhaps in an attempt to cause maximum frustration, there are some states in India that have citizens bide their time until they are 25 before they are allowed to drink or purchase alcohol.

And, it should be noted that the U.S. does force people to wait, or at least the federal government forces states to enact laws that make their residents wait. Following Prohibition it was decided by many states to make the drinking age 20, 19 or even 18 years of age. That didn’t sit well with many people, including some conservative advocacy groups that lobbied hard to get the laws changed. So, in 1984 the government passed the Uniform Drinking Age Act, which acts to cut federal road funding for states that do not comply.

The Louisiana Supreme Court briefly bucked this mandate back in 1996, but after the Clinton administration told the state it would lose $17 million in highway funding it quickly changed its tune. Now, that’s democracy!

Legal Stuff: Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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