The legal drinking age is the age at which a person can consume or purchase alcoholic food or alcoholic beverages. These laws cover a wide range of issues and behaviours, addressing when and where alcohol can be consumed. The minimum age alcohol can be legally consumed can be different from the age when it can be purchased. These laws vary among different countries and many laws have exemptions or special circumstances. Most laws apply only to drinking alcohol in public places, with alcohol consumption in the home being mostly unregulated. Some countries also have different age limits for different types of alcoholic drinks.
The United Kingdom is the only country that has a minimum legal age for drinking alcohol in a home. Some Islamic nations prohibit Muslims, or both Muslims and non-Muslims, from drinking alcohol at any age. In some countries, it is not illegal for minors to drink alcohol but the alcohol can be seized without compensation. In some cases, it is illegal to sell or give alcohol to minors. The following list indicates the age of the person for whom it is legal to consume and purchase alcohol.
Drinking culture refers to the customs and practices associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Although alcoholic beverages and social attitudes toward drinking vary around the world, nearly every civilization has independently discovered the processes of brewing beer, fermenting wine, and distilling spirits.
Alcohol and its effects have been present in societies throughout history. Drinking is documented in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, in the Qur'an, in art history, in Greek literature as old as Homer, and in Confucius’s Analects.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 (23 U.S.C. § 158) was passed on July 17, 1984 by the United States Congress as a mechanism whereby all states would become thereafter required to legislate the age of 21 years as a minimum age for purchasing and publicly possessing alcoholic beverages. Under the Federal Aid Highway Act, a state with a minimum age below 21 would be subjected to a ten percent decrease in its annual federal highway apportionment.
While this act did not outlaw the consumption of alcoholic beverages by those under 21 years of age, seven states and Washington D.C. extended its provisions into an outright ban. These states are: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. The minimum drinking age is a state law. However, most states still permit "underage" consumption of alcohol in some circumstances. In some states, no restriction on private consumption is made, while in others, consumption is only allowed in specific locations, in the presence of consenting and supervising family members as in the states of California, Colorado, Maryland, Montana, New York, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The act also does not seek to criminalize alcohol consumption during religious occasions; (e.g. communion wines, Kiddush).
Alcohol consumption by youth in the United States of America is an umbrella term for alcohol consumption by minors and adults under 21 years of age across the country.
Although the minimum legal age to purchase alcohol is 21 in all states (see National Minimum Drinking Age Act), the legal details vary greatly. While a few states completely ban alcohol usage for people under 21, the majority have exceptions that permit consumption.
The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (US), America, or simply the States, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states, 16 territories, a federal district, and various overseas extraterritorial jurisdictions. The 48 contiguous states and the federal district of Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) in total and with around 316 million people, the United States is the fourth-largest country by total area and third largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Paleo-indians migrated from Asia to what is now the US mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The ensuing war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first 10 amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.