Buying your first pint after turning 18 is a rite of passage in the UK.
And while you may have to wait until you’ve hit your eighteenth birthday to buy booze – you can actually legally drink it much earlier than that.
The age limit for buying alcohol was introduced in 1923 in the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to persons under 18) Act – which banned the sale to under 18s.
But when it comes to drinking alcohol in your home the law is different.
With children aged five to 16 are legally allowed to drink at home and other private premises, according to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.
Although minors under the age of 5 can consume alcoholic beverages under medical supervision or in an emergency.
However the government does advise that children under the age of 15 should not drink alcohol.
And while you may not be able to buy alcohol until you turn 18, teens aged 16 and 17 can have a pint bought for them in the pub.
The law says minors aged 16 or 17 may consume wine, beer or cider on licensed premises when ordered with a meal, and accompanied by an adult.
But when it comes to underage drinking, Drink Aware have issued these guidelines: ‘Children and their parents or carers are advised that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option.
‘However, if children drink alcohol underage, it should not be until at least the age of 15 years.
‘If young people aged 15 to 17 years consume alcohol, it should always be with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment.
‘Parents and young people should be aware that drinking, even at age 15 or older, can be hazardous to health and that not drinking is the healthiest option for young people.
‘If 15 to 17 year olds do consume alcohol, they should limit it to no more than one day a week.
‘Young people aged 15 to 17 years should never exceed the recommended adult weekly alcohol limits (no more than 14 units a week) and, when they do drink, they should usually drink less than that amount.'
Here is what the law says about buying and drinking alcohol:
What is against the law?
- To sell alcohol to someone under 18 anywhere.
- For an adult to buy or attempt to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. (Retailers can reserve the right to refuse the sale of alcohol to an adult if they’re accompanied by a child and think the alcohol is being bought for the child.)
- For someone under 18 to buy alcohol, attempt to buy alcohol or to be sold alcohol.
- For someone under 18 to drink alcohol in licensed premises, except where the child is 16 or 17 years old and accompanied by an adult. In this case it is legal for them to drink, but not buy, beer, wine and cider with a table meal.
- For an adult to buy alcohol for someone under 18 for consumption on licensed premises, except as above.
- To give children alcohol if they are under five.
What is not illegal?
- For someone over 18 to buy a child over 16 beer, wine or cider if they are eating a table meal together in licensed premises.
- For a child aged five to 16 to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises.