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Prior to the the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, the drinking age varied by U.S. state. Now, set at 21, the minimum is uniform, but laws on guardians providing alcohol to minors vary.
Those younger than 21 years of age cannot legally purchase alcohol in Kentucky, and adults who buy it for them could face up to a year in jail, but there is an exception to the rule.
Although “underage alcohol consumption is common in the United States,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can result in misdemeanor charges, community service requirements, fines or prison time, depending on the state and circumstance.
Here’s what to know about the legalities of minors obtaining alcohol in Kentucky.
Can parents buy their children alcohol in Kentucky?
Kentucky law prohibits individuals from providing alcoholic beverages to minors, though there is a potential defense for those who inadvertently sell to a minor who uses a fake identification and appears to be of age.
There is one big exception, though. A parent or guardian who purchases alcoholic beverages or otherwise provides alcohol to their child is not bound by this provision.
Other adults who give alcohol to minors are guilty of “unlawful transaction with a minor in the third degree,” Kentucky law says, which carries a class A misdemeanor charge. In the Bluegrass State, a class A misdemeanor can result in a fine of up to $500 and/or up to one year in prison.
“Kentucky does not have a law that requires a consumer to present an identification card in order to purchase alcoholic beverages,” according to the commonwealth’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, but “many businesses” have implemented their own policies to require IDs.
Although parents and guardians who purchase alcohol are not necessarily committing a class A misdemeanor in Kentucky, it is not lawful for minors to purchase their own alcohol or present a fraudulent ID.
Minors cannot enter “any premises licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages” for the purpose of buying or receiving alcoholic beverages, state law says.
Risks of underage drinking
Youth who consume alcohol are more likely than their peers who are not drinking to experience a myriad of problems, according to the CDC, including:
More absences from school and lower grades
Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents
Misuse of other substances
In addition to these risks, alcohol consumption has also been linked to a variety of severe health outcomes.
“There is a strong scientific consensus that alcohol drinking can cause several types of cancer,” according to the National Cancer Institute, a U.S. government entity.
The more a person drinks, the higher their risk of developing alcohol-related cancer, the NCI reports. Even those who drink no more than one drink per day face a “modestly increased risk of some cancers.”
The NCI reports developing the following types of cancer can be related to alcohol consumption:
Head and neck cancer
Kentucky residents who are struggling with any substance use disorder, including alcohol, can call 1-833-859-4357 or text HOPE to 96714 to speak with a specialist about treatment options and resources. This number is connected to a state government agency, and specialists are available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can leave a message outside of these hours.