Health Ministry says minimum age for alcohol drinkers should be 21

The Ministry of Health has proposed to have the minimum age, for people allowed to drink alcohol in Uganda raised from 18 to 21 years.

The Ministry avers that at 18 years, one’s brain is still developing and thus, shouldn’t be allowed to make a life altering decision like taking alcohol.

“They [movers of The Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill] have put the age of 18 at which people are supposed to start drinking at 18 years, we are saying this age isn’t okay, it should be 21 years and there is already science around this age and research was actually done by many scientists and they found that if someone hasn’t taken alcohol or any abusive substance by the age of 21, there are so little chances of this person starting to take this substance,” said Hafsa Lukwata, the Assistant Commissioner, Health Services at Ministry of Health.

Lukwata made the remarks during a media training of journalists at Parliament, where she said Uganda has already set the precedent under the Tobacco Control Act where the legal age when someone is allowed to smoke cigarettes is 21 years and there is a lot of science, backing the fact that at 21 years, one is still young because their brains are continuing to develop.

Hafsa Lukwata, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services at Ministry of Health (Photo by Baker Ssenyonga Mulinde).

“Do you know why sports betting is at 25 years old? These things change the functioning of the brain. But I am asking people out there, look at your children, look at what they are capable of doing, look at the kind of decisions they make. Such a person can’t be left to make a decision about their life. A child of 21 is a little more developed mentally, they are more organised and they are usually at campus, but an 18-year-old these days, is in S.4, you can’t let a S.4 child to take a decision about their life, something that is going to affect their future,” added Lukwata.

In November, Tororo District Woman Member of Parliament, Sarah Opendi  was given a go ahead to enact the Alcohol Control Bill 2023 where she proposed a jail term of 10 years or fine of Shs20 million for anyone found selling alcoholic drinks before 5pm and beyond 10pm on working days.

The legislator noted that the time limit within which alcohol should be sold in bars is intended to reduce noise pollution because some bars are located in residential areas and whoever wants to drink beyond the legal time, they should drink in their homes.

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