Minors and Alcohol — What Does the Law Actually Say?
When it comes to minors (those under 18 years of age) and alcohol, there is always going to be a long and lasting debate over what is and is not acceptable. What is more worrying though, is that there is also a large degree of confusion over what is and is not actually legal.
Is it illegal to allow an infant to have a sip of an alcoholic drink? Is it legal to give a teenager an alcoholic drink if you are their parent and they are being supervised at home? Is it illegal to give alcoholic drinks to other people’s children in your home? Is it legal to take your child into a bar? If you do not know the answers to all of these questions, here is what the law actually says.
What is illegal when it comes to minors and alcohol?
There are many laws in Queensland relating to minors and alcohol. Each law has various sections and subsections, so for full details of all legislation, please see the Queensland Liquor Act here. However, the law states that, in general:
> Minors are not allowed to buy or be sold alcohol
155A Prohibition on sale to a minor A person must not sell liquor to a minor [Section 155A, Queensland Liquor Act 1992]
156 Liquor prohibited to certain persons (1) A person must not, on premises to which a licence or permit relates— (a) supply liquor to; or (b) permit or allow liquor to be supplied to; or (c) allow liquor to be consumed by; a person who— (d) is a minor [Section 156 (1), Queensland Liquor Act 1992]
> Minors are not allowed on licensed premises
157 Prohibitions affecting minors (1) A minor who is not an exempt minor must not be on premises to which a licence or permit relates. [Section 157 (1), Queensland Liquor Act 1992]
Exemptions include such things as if the minor ‘is a resident on the premises’ and if the minor ‘is attending a function on the premises’. Please read the full legislation in the Queensland Liquor Act for all of the relevant exemptions and clauses.
A minor may be permitted on licensed premises if …
(f) the minor— (ii) is accompanied by a responsible adult who is responsibly supervising the minor. [Section 155 (4), Queensland Liquor Act 1992]
However, this does not apply if …
(a) the minor is on premises after 5p.m. [Section 155 (5), Queensland Liquor Act 1992]
> Minors are not allowed alcohol on licensed premises or public places
(2) A minor must not, on premises to which a licence or permit relates or in a public place— (a) consume liquor; or (b) be in possession of liquor. [Section 157 (2), Queensland Liquor Act 1992]
What about alcohol at home?
While the above laws are generally clear-cut, the laws regarding minors and alcohol in private places (e.g. private homes) are more complicated. Here is what the law says:
Irresponsible supply of liquor to a minor at a private place etc. (1) An adult must not supply liquor to a minor at a private place, unless the adult is a responsible adult for the minor.
(2) A responsible adult for a minor must not supply liquor to the minor at a private place, unless the supply is consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor.
(3) For subsection (2), in considering whether the supply is consistent with the responsible supervision of the minor, relevant factors include the following— (a) whether the adult is unduly intoxicated; (b) whether the minor is unduly intoxicated; (c) the age of the minor; (d) whether the minor is consuming the liquor supplied with food; (e) whether the adult is responsibly supervising the minor’s consumption of the liquor supplied; (f) the quantity of liquor supplied and the period over which it was supplied. [Section 156A, Queensland Liquor Act 1992]
What does this all mean?
In general, this means that those under 18 are not allowed to buy or consume alcohol in public or licensed places.
In private homes, alcohol MAY be permitted, but ONLY under very controlled, specific and limited circumstances and ONLY under responsible supervision by an adult responsible for the minor (e.g. their parent or legal guardian). However, given the number of factors affecting whether the adult is believed to be showing ‘responsible supervision’, the safest way of ensuring no laws are broken is to never give alcohol to minors.
What other factors should we consider?
When making decisions about minors and alcohol, even if a certain situation is permitted within the law, there are other factors we should take into consideration. According to Education Queensland:
‘Young bodies are not equipped to deal with alcohol and this may result in long-term damage to a young person’s organs and mental health or even overdosing’.
Many studies also highlight the dangers of alcohol on developing brains and the increased risks of accidents, injuries, violence and other serious negative effects in young drinkers. As such, most experts recommend NEVER giving alcohol to minors.