Can minors buy non alcoholic drinks? It seems like an easy question. Many of these beers, wines or spirits have 0.0% alcohol so surely there is nothing stopping them?
In general it is not illegal to sell non alcoholic drinks (<0.5% ABV) to minors. As they are deemed non alcoholic the usual laws don’t apply to them. However most retailers and manufacturers don’t sell or market their drinks to minors as they are considered adult drinks and styled the same as the alcoholic ones.
You might feel a little annoyed to be asked for proof of age to buy a alcohol free 0.0% ABV drink but there is method in the apparent madness, read on to find out.
Can minors buy non alcoholic beer?
I personally have never been asked for identification for non alcoholic drinks. This is likely because i’m a big hairy man, but i have been thwarted when trying to buy non alcoholic beer for a similar reason.
I sometimes work on call over a weekend, but in the summer when the BBQ is out i still wanted a nice cold beer when cooking my sausages. The answer of course, was to buy some delicious non alcoholic beer and the problem is solved.
I called into my local shop on my way to work. They have a pretty decent off sales department and i picked up some BrewDog Nanny State. Up to the counter i went only to be refused!
You might find this madness as a lot of fruits and breads have a higher ABV than the non alcoholic drinks, you can read my article on them here
The reason being it was 08.35 and they couldn’t sell alcohol products until 10.00. I did point out that Nanny State was <0.5% ABV and therefore non alcoholic but due to them stocking it in the alcohol section, they apply the same rules to this beer as alcoholic ones. That includes proof of age.
What is the law?
In the UK the Licensing Act 2003 makes it illegal for an under 18 to try and buy alcohol, with a punishable fine of up to £1000.
On of the cornerstones on the Act is “the protection of children from harm” and this is often what is cited but retailers. The view is that as the non alcoholic drinks are usually dealcoholised and in the same packaging as the alcoholic equivalents then this is viewed and potentially leading minors to buy alcohol, either on purpose or by accident.
Below is how Tesco in the UK categorise non alcoholic drinks.
In the USA, the MLDA, minimum legal drinking age, is 21.
Many reasons are cited by the CDC that drinking below the age of 21 can affect…
- Brain development
- Unintentional injuries such as car crashes and falls
- Death from alcohol poisoning
- School performance
- Alcohol dependence in later life
- Additional risky behaviours such as drugs
For these reasons and more the retailers don’t want to sell to minors or be seen to sell to minors incase it leads to a public backlash despite being on the right side of the law.
What about the breweries and manufacturers?
In a similar vain to the retailers, the breweries and manufacturers of non alcoholic drinks are keen to point out they are not marketing to children nor should their products be sold to children.
The biggest of them all, AB InBev have a full policy on “responsible marketing and communication” and they list non alcoholic drinks as this…
So why can minors usually not buy non alcoholic drinks?
As we have seen above, both the manufacturers and the retailers are at pains not the sell any dealcoholised or alcohol free version of an alcoholic drink to minors.
This is because they view them as adult only versions on the alcoholic drink and it would be a PR battle they couldn’t not nor should not win. As such they all take this line despite no law saying they have to.