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Laws & Regulations for Alcohol Use

Last Updated: 9/02/2022

Alcohol Laws and Regulations around the world are implemented, enforced, and put in place for a variety of reasons.  Typically, they protect the youth, adhere to the restrictions of a certain culture or religion, and ensure public safety. However, the alcohol laws and regulations around the world vary greatly from the prohibition of alcohol in some countries to lenient suggestions in others. 

In the past 100 years, laws and regulations for alcohol use have evolved greatly. While alcohol was prohibited in the 1930s, that’s no longer the case. In fact, even the drinking age has risen from 18 to 21. Alcohol laws and regulations seem to be an ever-evolving system to help maintain the safety and well-being of the public. 

What is the Alcohol Law?

Alcohol law refers to the laws regarding the manufacturing, use, sale, legal age of consumption, and being under the influence of alcoholic beverages. These laws will vary based on location, but generally include guidelines as to what constitutes an alcoholic drink (ABV, alcohol by volume), legal drinking age, as well as the prohibition and regulation of alcoholic beverages. 

For some countries, such as Afghanistan, alcohol law is the regulation surrounding the prohibition of alcohol in the country. Other countries, such as Malaysia, the alcohol law prohibits the consumption of alcohol for citizens or specific groups, but not tourists. 

When was the Alcohol Law Enacted?

In the United States, two main laws govern alcohol nationwide. The Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution and the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. 

The Twenty-First Amendment (1933) repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which had placed a nationwide prohibition on the manufacturing, transportation, and sale of alcohol within the United States. 

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, written by Senator Frank Lautenberg, was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Regan. This act raised the legal drinking age to 21 nationwide. 

Before the act, it was up to states to determine the legal drinking age, with most states ranging from 18-21 years of age. 

What are Alcoholic Beverages Under the Alcohol Law?

According to alcohol laws in the United States, an alcoholic beverage is any beer, distilled spirits, malt beverages, unfortified or fortified wine, spirituous liquor, mixed beverage, and any other consumable alcohol that contains 0.5% or more alcohol. 

In general, this means that most non-alcoholic beers and wines are not regulated by these laws, even though many do contain trace amounts of alcohol (up to 0.05% ABV for beers and anything under 0.5% for wines). 

What are the Alcohol Restrictions?

Alcohol restrictions around the world will vary greatly between countries. However, most countries fall into a few categories when discussing the drinking age. 

The majority of countries have set their drinking age between 18 and 21. These countries include the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and Ireland.

The second most common drinking age is 16 years of age. Countries that have set 16 as their legal drinking age include Barbados, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Luxembourg, Palestine, Serbia, Zimbabwe, Italy, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines. Some countries also have no set drinking age. 

We list these countries with no drinking age below.

  • Angola
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahrain
  • Cambodia
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Kosovo
  • Macau
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Western Sahara

While age-related laws don’t exist in these nations, other laws are present.

What is Drunk Driving Law?

Drunk driving, in the United States, is defined as the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. 

For drivers over 21 years old with a full license, driving with a BAC above 0.08% is considered illegal. For those under 21, or those possessing a learner’s permit or provisional license, states legal limits range from 0.00% to 0.02% BAC. Drunk driving is also commonly referred to as driving under the influence (DUI), or driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI). 

In most cases, states have laws surrounding testing, fining, sentencing, punishments, and enforcement of DUI/DWI incidents. Some states, such as Colorado have different levels of penalties for different levels of impairment. For example, those driving with a BAC of 0.05% may still receive a penalty for driving while impaired, but not as severe as those who are found to have a BAC of 0.0%.

Federally, there is a limit of 0.04% BAC for those with a commercial driver’s license; those who test between 0.02-0.04% must be removed from duty for 24 hours. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in Turkey?

In Turkey, the laws surrounding the selling of alcohol dictate that alcohol can be sold in markets only between 6 am and 11 pm. However, there is no time restriction on restaurants or bars. 

Additionally, student dormitories, health institutions, sports clubs, and educational institutions are prohibited from selling alcohol at any time of the day. To sell alcohol in an establishment, the owners must obtain a license from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, or the Ministry of Health. 

Turkey currently has a high tax on alcoholic beverages, which is known as a consumption tax. This tax was established in 2002 and then increased in 2010. It is important to note that the Justice and Development Party of Turkey, which advocated for this increase, has a known aversion to alcohol consumption. 

This tax is intended to deter people from buying alcohol. The consumption tax also has a known relation to the rise in smuggling and fraud related to alcohol throughout the country, as well as alcohol poisoning incidents such as the 2011 Turkish Riviera mass alcohol poisoning incident. 

As of 2013, most forms of advertising for alcoholic beverages have been banned on radio and television. There are also other media restrictions placed on alcohol, such as that alcohol must be blurred on television and in films. Interestingly, these restrictions have not affected online media. 

Currently, in Turkey, the legal drinking age is set to 18, but there is strong advocacy from several groups that want to raise the drinking age as high as 24 years of age. 

In Turkey, the regulations surrounding drunk driving define drunk driving as driving with a BAC of 0.05%; anyone caught at or above this limit is subject to a 6-month driving ban. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in Germany?

In Germany, there is currently no license required for the production, wholesale or retail sale of alcoholic beverages. However, licensing is required and must be publicly displayed at any place that intends to serve alcohol. 

Additionally, Germany has relatively relaxed restrictions surrounding the hours in which alcohol can be served with most places not being allowed to serve alcohol during “closing hours” or between 5 and 6 am. 

While the legal drinking age in Germany is set at 16 years of age, there are a few caveats to this. For example, at the age of 16, individuals can obtain beer and wine on their own, but no one under the age of 18 years is allowed to obtain distilled spirits on their own. 

Furthermore, beer and wine are often allowed for those who are 14 or 15 years of age as long as they are accompanied by and have the explicit permission of a parent or guardian. These limitations do not apply to people within these age ranges who are married. 

In opposition to the relatively relaxed drinking age restrictions, Germany has very strict laws surrounding drunk driving. We list these laws below.

  • 0.0% – professional drivers, anyone who is transporting passengers commercially, and anyone under the age of 21 with less than 2 years of experience are required to have a BAC of 0.0%. 
  • 0.03% – in the case of an accident or traffic offense, an individual’s BAC must be under 0.03%
  • 0.05% – at a BAC of 0.05% an individual is considered to be driving under the influence and can be penalized. 
  • 0.16% – a BAC of 0.16% or above is considered to be driving under the influence of cyclists. If the cyclist happens to be involved in a traffic incident or offense at this level, however, they can receive the same penalty as someone who was operating a car at this level of intoxication. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in India?

The alcohol laws in India vary between states. In the states of Bihar, Gujarat, Lakshadweep, Mizoram, and Nagaland alcohol is prohibited. In all other states, there are significant restrictions placed on alcohol. For example, alcohol can be sold at liquor stores, restaurants, and bars but not online. In some states, private businesses cannot own liquor stores and the sale of alcohol is controlled by the state. 

Additionally, India has several Dry Days on which the sale of alcohol is not permitted. Some of these days include, but are not limited to, Republic Day, Independence Day, and Gandhi Jayanti. The number of dry days varies between states with Bengal having up to 20 dry days a year.

Depending on the state, the legal drinking age varies between 18 and 21 years of age. In India, the legal limit for driving is a BAC of 0.03% or less. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in Australia?

The alcohol laws in Australia often vary between different areas, however, there are a few regulations that are nationwide. In Australia, the legal drinking age is set at 18 years of age and it’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. 

Moreover, it’s also illegal to sell alcohol to anyone who is already drunk. It is illegal to drive with a BAC over 0.05% and anything at or above this level is considered to be driving while intoxicated. However, for those on a learner’s permit or provisional license, a BAC of over 0.0% is considered to be illegal. Finally, all packaged alcohol must display how many standard drinks it contains. 

While the legal drinking age in Australia is set at 18 years of age, in some areas it is legal for some to drink under the age of 18 as long as they are accompanied by and have the explicit permission of a parent or legal guardian. Not all areas have service hour restrictions, but the most common restrictions state that alcohol cannot be served after 2 am. 

While alcohol is not prohibited in Australia, there are over 100 areas in the Northern Territory that are considered to be “dry areas.” It’s important to note that this is the choice of the specific areas, rather than that of the state. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in Ireland?

While Ireland is often considered to be a relatively liberal country in regards to its drinking laws, there are a significant amount of restrictions placed on the sale and consumption throughout the country. In Ireland, the legal drinking age is set at 18 years of age. With this restriction in place, it’s illegal to advertise alcohol within 200 meters of a school, on children’s clothing, at events aimed at children, sports fields, and in movies that do not have an 18 + classification. 

In addition to the legal drinking age, Ireland has also restricted the unit pricing for alcohol. All alcohol has a minimum unit pricing of 10 cents per gram of alcohol. With this restriction in place, it’s illegal to reduce the price of alcohol at an hour of the day. So, “Happy Hours” are not legal. 

In 2003 Ireland implemented the Intoxicating Liquor Act, which places regulations and restrictions on behavior while drunk and what constitutes disorderly conduct as well as making it illegal to sell alcohol to anyone who is already clearly intoxicated. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong’s legal drinking age is set at 18 years of age, making it illegal to sell or supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. The law has been in place since the year 2000.  

Alcohol is available for purchase at licensed locations as well as many food retailers, such as supermarkets. There are no strict sales hour restrictions. In Hong Kong, driving with a BAC at or above 0.05% is considered to be driving while intoxicated. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in the United Kingdom?

The Alcohol Laws in the United Kingdom are significantly more lenient than most of the other countries discussed thus far. For example, in the United Kingdom, the legal drinking age is set at 18 years of age. However, those aged 16 and 17 are allowed to drink beer, wine, or cider with food as long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Pubs, restaurants, and shops must be licensed by local authorities and will need either a Premises License and a Personal License to sell or serve alcohol. Furthermore, there is a license referred to as an On-License, which means that any alcohol bought must be consumed on the premises. This is in opposition to an Off-License, which means you can purchase the alcohol and take it elsewhere.

In regards to sale hours, the sale hours in the United Kingdom used to be relatively strict. For example, businesses could not serve alcohol after 11 pm without a specific license extension. However, it’s technically possible to obtain 24-hour permits. These 24-hour permits do not necessarily mean that a place is required to serve alcohol at all hours of the day, but rather that they have flexibility regarding closing times. Still, many places choose to stop serving alcohol around 11 pm. 

In the United Kingdom, driving with a BAC at or above 0.08% is illegal and is considered to be driving under the influence. 

What are the Alcohol Laws in the United States?

In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21 years of age and has been since 1984. Before 1984, each state set its legal drinking age. Currently, 29 states allow those under the age of 21 to drink with their parent’s presence and permission in private residences. 

Much like Australia and India, different states and areas in the United States have specific alcohol laws regarding the sale of alcohol. In some states and local areas, the sale of alcohol is banned on Sunday either between certain hours or entirely. Alaska does not allow the sale of alcohol on election day until the polls have closed. 

Additionally, some states allow the sale of some types of alcohol, such as beer, in grocery stores, with liquor only being obtainable from specific liquor stores, while other states do not allow the sale of alcohol in grocery stores. 

Sale hours also vary between localities and states, with most places not serving alcohol after 2 or 3 am. Also, in some places, such as New Orleans, Louisiana, public drinking is allowed anywhere in the city. It’s important to acknowledge, however, that drinking in public is not generally allowed in most places throughout the United States. 

In regards to drunk driving, for those over the age of 21, a BAC of 0.08% or above is illegal and considered to be driving while intoxicated; penalties may differ based on specific levels. For anyone under the age of 21, the legal limit varies between a BAC of 0.00% and 0.02%.

What are the Awareness Campaigns About Alcohol Use?

The United States has several awareness campaigns and groups that advocate for the continued regulation, restriction, or safe consumption of alcohol. 

We list these campaigns below.

  • Alcohol Awareness Month is a national public holiday every April in the United States that was established in 1987. This campaign is sponsored by the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and aims to bring education and awareness to the public on the dangers and risks of alcoholism and drug dependence. 
  • “Talk. They Hear You.” is a campaign run by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) which aims to reduce underage drinking and substance use, by providing caregivers with the information and resources they need to discuss these problems with their children. 
  • MADD – Mothers Against Drunk Driving is an organization founded in 1980 by Candace Lightner after her daughter was hit and killed by a drunk driver. This groups advocacy is often considered to be extremely effective;  In 1984 they helped to raise the drinking age to 21, and pass Zero Tolerance as federal law (this law made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system while driving), and they helped to get the BAC of 0.08% limit for drunk driving passed in all 50 states.
    As of 2013, there has been a 55% drop in deaths of those killed due to drunk driving. 

These campaigns are effective for helping people manage alcoholism in the United States.

What is the Prohibition of Drinking Alcohol in Public Places?

The United States has a few different regulations surrounding the prohibition of drinking alcohol in public places. These include Open Container laws and Public Drinking restrictions or prohibitions. 

Open Containers laws vary between states but are intended to stop individuals from drinking in public places. These laws are often not very specific. Currently, there are 24 states with very light to no restrictions at all on the public consumption of alcohol. For example, Indiana allows the public consumption of alcohol, while in Louisiana public consumption of alcohol is legal in New Orleans but illegal in many other areas. 

In regards to the possession of an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, 39 states are currently in compliance with the TEA-21 rules of the Department of Transportation’s guidelines that prohibit it. 4 states, Alaska, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Wyoming, have similar limits but not to the same level as that of TEA-21.  

Can You Drink with Parental Consent?

Currently, in 29 states throughout the United States it’s legal for those under the age of 21 to consume alcohol under the supervision of a parent. Therefore, yes you can drink with parental consent. It’s important to note that it’s still dangerous for children under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. 

Is the Alcohol Law and Regulation Effective in Preventing Alcoholism?

To an extent, many Alcohol Laws and Regulations are effective in preventing alcoholism, especially those that are aimed at preventing the sale and distribution of alcohol to those under the legal drinking age, being that there is a strong correlation between alcohol abuse at a younger age leading to a potential for life-long complications with and abuse of alcohol. 

When looking at the risks and preventative measures that apply to alcoholism, several risk factors go into determining whether or not an adult individual is at an increased risk for alcohol; many of these risk factors are not easily identifiable unless additional information is given by the individual (such as a family history of alcoholism, environmental factors surrounding the perception and consumption of alcohol). For those over the legal drinking age in many places, the Alcohol Laws and Regulations do little to prevent the chances of alcoholism. 

What are the Countries that Prohibit Alcohol?

Several countries prohibit alcohol. That said, some countries will allow alcohol in some areas but not others. For example, alcohol is prohibited in some areas of India but not in others.

We list the countries that prohibit alcohol below.

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Canada
  • Djibouti
  • India
  • Malaysia for Muslims
  • Indonesia’s Aceh territory
  • Kuwait
  • Libya
  • Maldives
  • Mauritania
  • Pakistan for Muslims
  • Qatar for Muslims
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • Sudan for Muslims
  • Yemen

If you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism, call for help today.