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At what age can I legally drink alcohol and smoke?

The law on the age at which you can drink alcohol is complicated.   Before the age of 18, you are not allowed to buy alcohol in pubs or shops, drink alcohol in pubs or outside in public places.  It is also unlawful for anyone else to buy alcohol for you if you are under 18 and the drink will be consumed in a pub or public place.  

However, if you're aged 16 or 17, you are allowed to drink wine, beer, or cider (but not other alcohol) with a meal in a restaurant, hotel or part of a pub set apart for eating meals. You can only do this if someone aged 18 or over is with you at the meal and buys the alcohol.

Any child aged five or over can drink alcohol at home or on other private premises but it is usually against the law to give alcohol to a child under five.

It's illegal to sell cigarettes, tobacco or cigarette papers to anyone under 18, but it is not a criminal offence for a person under 18 to smoke.

Smoking is banned in all enclosed public places and workplaces, whatever your age.

For more information about alcohol and young people, see Young People: Health and personal.

Other Frequently asked questions about family matters: