Age limits

Section title

Age limits

Brief definition of policy approach

Measures that define a legal minimum age that young people must reach to be able to participate in addictive behaviours.

Description of policy approaches

Measures that define a legal minimum age that young people must reach to be able to participate in some types of addictive behaviours. Such measures make it illegal for retailers to sell alcoholic beverages or tobacco products to young people under this age, or to give them access to gambling services. Provisions can also make it illegal for young people who are underage to purchase or use such products or services. This approach also includes specific measures to ensure compliance with regulations, such as retailer education, proof of age schemes, and the definition of penalties for sellers in breach of regulations. This approach is generally not considered applicable in relation to illegal drugs, although there are exceptions in some countries. In particular, consumer laws or licensing systems might be used in order to restrict purchase of novel psychoactive substances (not controlled under national illegal drug laws) by certain age groups.

Typical measures included under this approach

  1. Restrictions on participating in addictive behaviours in certain locations
    • Alcohol – Age limits on sales and consumption; age limit determined by type of alcoholic beverages
    • Tobacco – Age limits on sales and consumption
    • Illegal Drugs – Age limits on purchase of some types of substance that may be used for intoxication, including volatile substances and novel psychoactive substances.
    • Gambling – Age limits on participation; age limits on access to gambling venues; age limits determined by type of game

Summary of available evidence for interventions and policies

  1. Beneficial
    • No evidence identified
  2. Likely to be beneficial
    • No evidence identified
  3. Mixed evidence
    • No evidence identified
  4. Unknown effectiveness
    • Locally enforced age restriction ordinances likely to reduce tobacco use when combined with a range of tobacco control initiatives, including prevention, community mobilisation, merchant training, and regulating sales
  5. Ineffective
    • No evidence identified

Key Reviews