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Did you know that until relatively recently, Jamaica had no laws concerning a legal drinking age?
People just had to be 16 or over to purchase alcoholic beverages, which are readily available here, sold almost everywhere from gas stations to supermarkets, and by numerous street vendors as well.
However, there was no legal restriction on how old someone had to be in order to be served alcohol.
With this knowledge, party-goers, many of them students from North American and Europe, would flock to the island for their spring break vacation, so they could take advantage of this lack of a drinking age.
Things have changed since then though, and now Jamaica has taken a lesson from most other countries and imposed a legal minimum age for being served or sold alcoholic beverages.
The legal drinking age is in Jamaica is now 18 years. By law, vendors are not permitted to serve anyone who is under this age or allow them to purchase drinks containing alcohol, yet there are some places where these laws are overlooked.
Reputable establishments such as resorts generally impose strict rules where this is concerned, and they will refuse to serve liquor to anyone who is not wearing an armband designating them as being 18 or older, if they do, they are likely to lose their job.
Settings such as night clubs will also likely ask to see ID of people who look as though they may be under-age, but in Jamaica there are so many less formal environments where alcohol is sold such as restaurants, tuck shops, and small bars where ID is rarely requested, that it is still fairly easy for those who are under 18 to be sold a drink.
Anyone in their teens has a good chance of being served without any problems, and this can vary from one part of the island to the next.
Jamaica does have certain laws in place which state what the limitations are pertaining to those under the age of 18 and the sale and serving of liquor.
Under Section 40 of the Child Care and Protection Act, serving and selling liquor to anyone under 18 is prohibited, as is involving such a minor in the sale of it, or buying it from them.
Furthermore, any restaurant, bar etc. that is licensed to serve alcohol, is obligated under Section 62 of The Spirit License Act to not employ minors to sell and serve alcoholic beverages or to allow them to purchase such drinks, if they do, they can be held liable and fined or imprisoned.
However these laws are not always strictly enforced, and some less scrupulous vendors will continue to sell liquor to under-age people.
It is also not legal for adults to supply minors who are not their children with alcoholic beverages and to allow them to drink on their property.
In spite of the laws, the consumption of liquor amongst Jamaican teenagers is still higher than it should be.
Fortunately this fact has come to the attention of many drink companies and promoters of events in which liquor is available, alerting them to the need for more strict regulation in this area.
The “I'm Legal” campaign was launched by major industry players, Red Stripe and J Wray & Nephew in 2012 in an attempt increase public awareness of the drinking age and enforcing it in settings where liquor is being bought and sold.
A growing number of events have begun requesting ID before admitting patrons, although this is not always easy as there is no standard “age of majority” carding system in Jamaica at the present, which would better facilitate this endeavour and will hopefully be in place in the near future.
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