Young people & alcohol

Young people and alcohol

Young people and particularly those under the age of 18 are vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol.

  • In Australia alcohol is a key factor in the three leading causes of death among adolescents; unintentional injury, homicide and suicide.
  • In 2012, young people aged 16-24 years of age were around twice as likely as the general population to drink at very high levels on a single occasion.
  • For young people aged 18-24 years of age, the rate of emergency department presentations for acute alcohol problems was 54% higher in 2012 than in 2003.
  • The rate of interpersonal violence hospitalisations in 15-24 year old males were around four times that of females in the same age group.

As well as the serious and obvious health consequences of excessive drinking, alcohol places the drinker and those around them at considerable risk of harm. Alcohol use, particularly excessive use can increase young people's risk of becoming a victim and / or an offender of alcohol related crime, often violent crime such as sexual assault, physical assault, robbery, driving accidents, violence and antisocial behaviour offences.

There are a number of laws in NSW designed to protect young people (under 18's) from being sold, given or from consuming alcohol. These laws apply to those that supply alcohol to under 18’s, and the under 18’s themselves.

NSW Police Force is committed to enforcing these laws and increasing community awareness of the legal, social and health harms associated with under-age drinking.

Liquor Laws and under 18s

In NSW, laws regulate the sale, consumption and provision of alcohol to people under the age of 18 years (minors). These laws are covered in the Liquor Act 2007 and the Summary Offences Act 1988.

Underage drinking laws at licensed and unlicensed premises

The Liquor Act 2007 governs the restrictions applying to under 18s in licensed and unlicensed premises.

Section 118 deals with the consumption of liquor by minors on a licensed premise. A minor must not obtain, consume or carry liquor away from a licensed premise. Fines range between $220 and $2200.

Section 117 deals with the supply of alcohol to minors.

A person (including a parent or guardian) must not sell or supply alcohol to a minor in any licensed premises in NSW.

Only a parent or guardian (or a person authorised by the parent or guardian) may supply alcohol to a minor at an unlicensed premises (including a family home), however the supply must be consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor. In relation to the responsible supervision of a minor the following matters are considered:

  • the age of the minor
  • whether the person supplying the alcohol is intoxicated
  • whether the minor is consuming the liquor with food
  • whether the minors consumption of liquor is being responsibly supervised by the person supplying the liquor
  • the quantity of liquor and the period of time over which it is supplied

The supply of alcohol to a child who is intoxicated is not, in any circumstance, consistent with the responsible supervision of a minor.

Significant fines apply. A $1,100 on-the-spot penalty can be issued or the courts can impose fines of up to $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.

Possession of liquor by minors

The Summary Offences Act 1988 Section 11 deals with the possession of liquor by minors in a public place.

A minor must not possess or consume any alcohol in a public place unless they are under the supervision of a responsible adult, or they have a reasonable excuse for possessing or consuming the alcohol. If a police officer suspects a minor is in possession of alcohol in a public place, they can confiscate the alcohol from the minor. The minor may be fined or the police may choose to refer them to the Your Choice program.

Evidence of age

If you are under the age of 18 years and you use false ID in order to enter, remain in, or buy alcohol from a licensed venue you may be issued with an on-the-spot penalty of $220 and fined up to $2,200 by a court. You may also have 6 months added to your provisional driver’s licence.

If you are suspected of committing an offence, licensees, staff, security, police officers and inspectors can ask you to state your full name, home address and date of birth. If you fail or refuse to produce an acceptable proof of age document, you may be issued with a $220 on-the-spot penalty or fined up to $2200 by a court.

Information in relation to underage drinking fines can be found here.