Underage drinking and the law

| 26/09/2016 | 0 Comments

Two questions have come up about the drinking age in Cayman based on a previous Ask Auntie column (see Legal age for drinking alcohol): 1) In the interest of clarity, which Cayman law prohibits drinking, as opposed to purchasing, alcohol before the age of 18?  2) Surely the 18-year-old age limit only applies to consuming alcohol in a licensed establishment or public area?


Auntie’s answer: I can see that my original answer may have been misunderstood because of what was left out of my explanation, so I will rectify that here. When I stated that the legal drinking age in Cayman is 18, I did not add that the proscription also covered the purchase of alcohol.

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The Liquor Licensing Law (2000 Revision) is very clear about the consumption, selling and purchasing of alcohol. Section 21 (1) specifies that the holder of a liquor licence is not allowed to “(a) sell intoxicating liquor to a person under the age of eighteen; (b) knowingly allow a person under the age of eighteen to consume intoxicating liquor in licensed premises; or (c) knowingly allow any person in licensed premises to sell intoxicating liquor to a person under the age of eighteen”.

As for an individual, Section 21 (2) says, “A person under the age of eighteen shall not buy, attempt to buy or consume intoxicating liquor.”

And, finally, to prevent anyone trying to circumvent the law, Section 21 (3) says, “No person shall buy or attempt to buy intoxicating liquor for consumption by a person under the age of eighteen.”

I am confident that the above clarifies any confusion about drinking, buying or selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 18.

Unfortunately, since this all falls under the liquor licensing law and therefore refers only to licensed premises, the answer to the second question is not so straightforward. As you probably noted, the law that I referred to dates back to 2000. While there has been an amendment as recently as 2015, that only addressed the granting of liquor licences.

There is no legislation in place covering consumption in the home. I have heard arguments from those dealing with drug and alcohol abuse in Cayman that while the law might have intended to prohibit underage drinking wherever it occurs, it is not specific enough in its current form.

I understand that professionals dealing with substance abuse issues and education would very much like to see the consumption of alcohol in someone’s home covered in the law. At this point, though, it seems that we have to rely on the judgement of parents as to what they will allow their teens to do in the privacy of their home. After all, it is clearly impossible to control what goes on behind closed doors.

I also know that in many countries and cultures, drinks such as a shandy or a glass of wine are barely considered alcoholic. I am not trying to moralise here; I am just putting out there all the different angles to consider.

For now, the one certainty is that if you are under 18, it is illegal to buy and/or consume alcohol in a bar, restaurant or liquor store.

The law mentioned in this column can be found on the CNS Library.

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