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Alcohol, Smoking & Drugs

Tobacco, drug and alcohol use in the USA

To ensure a safe and stress-free trip, make sure you are in compliance with local drug and alcohol laws while traveling in the USA. The following is a brief guide.


The minimum drinking age in the U.S. is 21. Those under 21 are prohibited from purchasing, consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages. Servers are required to ask for identification of those who appear to be younger than 21 years. To prove you are 21 or older, you must show government-issued identification such as a driver’s license or passport. You will not be served alcohol without the original valid ID (no photocopies). Even if you are not ordering alcohol, many bars and clubs will deny access to anyone under the age of 21. Both underage drinkers and the ones who provided the alcohol can be criminally charged.

Laws regarding the purchase and sale of alcohol and public drinking – on beaches, streets, parks and sidewalks — vary throughout the U.S. The days and times alcohol sales are permitted, as well as the types of stores that sell alcohol, also vary from place to place. Check the areas you plan to visit regarding local regulations.

Statutes governing driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) are strictly enforced in the U.S. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in all states, although specific laws and penalties vary from state to state.


The legal age for purchasing cigarettes is 18 in most states. Hawaii is the first state to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.

There is a federal ban on smoking cigarettes or cigars on all domestic flights and in all federal buildings. Many states and local municipalities also have smoking bans in public places such as workplaces, movie theaters, shopping centers, restaurants and bars, while others do not regulate smoking at all. “No smoking” signs should clearly mark areas where smoking is prohibited.

Smoking in restaurants and public places is becoming increasingly restricted in the United States. A majority of states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws, covering virtually all public places, including restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies and public restrooms.


Effective August 8, 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared electronic cigarettes under the same regulation as tobacco products. This FDA rule includes the ban of e-cigarette purchases by individuals under 18 years of age. In addition to federal regulation, states can also enforce their own regulations, specifically in regards to indoor use. While some states may not have established vaping laws, please remember to check with a member of staff before you start vaping in or near any public establishment.


Possession of controlled dangerous substances or drugs is illegal in the USA. The use and possession of marijuana remains a federal crime.