Alcohol & the law


There are strict laws governing the purchase and consumption of alcohol in the UK. 

It is against the law:

  • To be drunk in charge of a child under seven in a public place or on licensed premises
  • To sell alcohol to someone under the age of 18
  • For an adult to buy or attempt to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18
  • For someone under the age of 18 to buy alcohol, attempt to buy alcohol or be sold alcohol under any circumstances (unless acting at the requirement of the police or a weights and measures inspector)
  • For someone under 18 to drink alcohol in licensed premises with one exception - 16 and 17 year olds accompaned by an adult can drink, but not buy, beer, wine and cider with a table meal
  • For an adult to buy alcohol for a person under 18 for consumption on licensed premises, except as above.

Drinking in public

Some towns have alcohol-free zones where nobody can drink in public. Even when these aren't in place the police can take away alcohol or move under 18s on, if they have been drinking.

Drink driving

The police can stop anyone if they think they are driving with too much alcohol in their body. If stopped, the driver will be asked to take a breathalyser test to measure the amount of alcohol in their breath.

The alcohol limit for drivers in the UK (apart from Scotland) is:

  • 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 107 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of urine.

In Scotland it is

  • 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood
  • 67 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine

However, it is impossible to gauge how much alcohol you can drink and stay within the limits. The most sensible approach is to not drink at all, if you are driving. Get a taxi, take public transport, walk or get a lift from a sober friend. Don't take the risk.


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