The charts below contain the Minimum Legal Drinking Ages (MLDAs) and related data for 190 independent states recognized by the US State Department as of July 15, 2015. The data were taken from the World Health Organization's 2014 "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014," unless otherwise noted. No drinking age information was available for Djibouti, Lebanon, Marshall Islands, North Korea, or South Sudan, the other five countries listed by the State Department as independent states.
Of the 190 countries, 61% have a drinking age of 18 or 19 years old. The United States and 11 other countries have an MLDA of 21 years old, the highest MLDA of all the countries where it is legal to drink (although some areas of India have drinking ages as high as 25 and 30 years old). Alcohol is banned in 16 countries, all of them Muslim countries, although some have exceptions for non-Muslims.
I. Minimum Legal Drinking Ages in 190 Countries (categorized by lowest legal age minimum for any type of alcohol or purchase)
No MLDA (19 countries)
Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Kosovo, Laos, Mali, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Togo
10-15 MLDA (2 countries)
Antigua and Barbuda, Central African Republic
16-17 MLDA (20 countries)
Austria, Belgium, Congo, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland
18-19 MLDA (116 countries)
Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
20 MLDA (5 countries)
Iceland, Japan, Paraguay, Thailand, Uzbekistan
21 MLDA (12 countries)
Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Kiribati, Micronesia, Mongolia, Nauru, Oman, Palau, Samoa, Sri Lanka, United States
Illegal to drink alcohol at any age (16 countries) some exceptions for non-Muslims may apply
Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
II. Country-by-Country Chart of Minimum Drinking Age Laws
When available, each country is linked to a PDF document from the World Health Organization (WHO) detailing its alcohol policy. On premise refers to bars, cafes, restaurants, etc. Off premise refers to liquor stores, wine shops, and supermarkets.
The alcohol ban was instituted after the 1979 revolution. In 2012, an Iranian news organization reported that two people were sentenced to death for drinking alcohol following two previous convictions for those same people, for which each received 80 lashes. A 2004 WHO report noted that "Religious minorities can buy alcoholic beverages from very few specifically licensed shops owned by shopkeepers of the same minority."
The WHO lists age 16 as the on- and off-premise age minimum for beer, but the Netherlands government website says that as of Jan. 2014, "It is a criminal offence for anyone under 18 to have alcohol in their possession in public and selling alcohol to minors is illegal."
Alcohol is illegal for Muslims and consumption is a crime in Pakistan punishable by whipping. Non-Muslims are are provided special permits to purchase liquor but they are not allowed to use it in public. Pakistan penal code, under the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order of 1979, awards 80 lashes to those convicted of consuming alcohol.
No info provided by WHO; other sources say that alcohol is banned for Muslims. Alcohol for non-Muslims is highly restricted and may be purchased at certain hotels or with a permit to shop at a government-owned store. The country has said it intends to find "creative" solutions for the alcohol restrictions while hosting the 2022 World Cup.
No info provided by WHO; other sources say alcohol is banned in UAE, but non-Muslim tourists may apply for a drinking license. The license is apparently very difficult to obtain and may be limited to those over 18 or 21, depending on location.
The repeal of prohibition by the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933 allowed each state to set its own alcohol consumption laws. Following the July 1, 1971 passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the legal voting age from 21 to 18 years of age, 30 US states lowered the MLDA to 18, 19, or 20. By 1982, only 14 states still had an MLDA of 21. The enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 prompted states to raise their legal age for purchase or public possession of alcohol to 21 or risk losing millions in federal highway funds. By 1988, all 50 states had raised the MLDA to 21.
AFP, "Al Qaeda Lashes Four Yemenis for Drinking Alcohol," tribune.com.pk, Feb. 27, 2012
AIM - Alcohol in Moderation, "What is Legal drinking age (LDA)?," www.aim-digest.com, Jan. 2015
Jay R. Brooks, "Solomon Islands Beer," brookstonbeerbulletin.com, July 7, 2012
Zak Brophy, "Lebanon's Underage Drinking Problem," executive-magazine.com, Mar. 14, 2013
Manzoor Butt, "Use of Illegal Toxic Alcohol Is Killing Hundreds Every Year in Pakistan; Family Physicians Have to Play a More Proactive Role in Saving Precious Lives," Middle East Journal of Business, Apr. 2015
Caroline's Rainbow Foundation, "Drinking Age Restrictions," carolinesrainbowfoundation.org (accessed July 15, 2015)
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, "Legal Drinking Age for Alcohol in Canada," ccsa.ca (accessed July 15, 2015)
A Country a Month, "Local Food You Should Try in Kosovo and No-Miss Drinks in Kosovo," acountryamonth.com (accessed July 15, 2015)
Saeed Kamali Dehghan, "Iranian Pair Face Death Penalty after Third Alcohol Offence," theguardian.com, June 25, 2012
J.D. DiGiovanni, "F---, Marry, Kill: The 'Legal Age' for Doing Adult Things around the World," hopesandfears.com (accessed July 15, 2015)
Frommer's, "Fast Facts in Samoa," frommers.com (accessed July 15, 2015)
Susanna George, "Beer and Chivas Fly off the Shelves as Baghdad's Liquor Stores Reopen after Ramadan," pri.org, Aug. 4, 2014
Murtaza Haider, "Alcohol Consumption in Pakistan: Don't Mix Sin with Crime," dawn.com, Oct. 29, 2014
Rob Harris and John Leicester, "Qatar to World Cup Critics: We're No Vampires," ap.org, Nov. 11, 2014
Sabeer Lodhi, "Why Ban Alcohol When It Is Consumed Openly?," blogs.tribune.com.pk, Nov. 4, 2012
Kenton Murray, "The Alcohol Guide to Qatar," kentonmurray.com, Oct. 23, 2014
Times of India, "Maharashtra's Legal Drinking Age is Highest in World," timesofindia.indiatimes.com, Jan. 24, 2011
James Porteous, "Drinking (or Not) in Doha," telegraph.co.uk, July 19, 2011
US Department of State, "Independent States in the World," state.gov, Dec. 30, 214
US Department of State, "U.S. Relations With Kosovo," state.gov, Jan. 29, 2015
Visa HQ, "Brunei Darussalam Customs," brunei-darussalam.visahq.com (accessed July 15, 2015)
Carol J. Williams, "Islamists Slam Kuwaiti Lawmaker for Call to Allow Dancing, Alcohol," latimes.com, Jan. 5, 2015
World Health Organization, "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014," who.int, 2014