Drinking Age by Country 2022

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From hard liquor to hard seltzer, alcoholic beverages are a near-ubiquitous part of many modern cultures: Wine with dinner, beer with friends on the weekend, celebratory champagne toasts, and so on. However, because alcohol is a drug that can significantly affect a person's judgment and physical capabilities, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is age-gated in many countries.

Alcohol's effect on the body

In chemical terms, alcohol is an organic compound produced when grains, vegetables, or fruits are allowed to ferment. Medically, alcohol is classified as a depressant (as opposed to a stimulant such as caffeine or a hallucinogen such as psilocybin) with a wide range of physiological effects. Most of these effects involve the deceleration or obstruction of bodily functions. For example, alcohol inhibits physical motor functions and slows down reaction times. As a result, the more one drinks, the slower and clumsier they become. Similarly, alcohol also impedes the brain's communication pathways. Therefore, while one or two drinks can make a person feel looser and more relaxed, continued consumption will result in symptoms such as slurred speech, cloudy thinking, and poor decision-making. Excessive drinking can also lead to additional complications including vomiting, memory blackouts, sleepiness to the point of "passing out", and in extreme cases, alcohol poisoning. Finally, long-term overconsumption of alcohol can contribute to severe physiological conditions, including (but not limited to) pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy, liver disease, hyperglycemia, cancer, and various neurological disorders.

Minimum ages for alcohol consumption around the world

Alcohol consumption varies significantly between countries, as does the legal drinking age. In the United States, one must be at least 21 years of age or older to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages (with very few exceptions in some jurisdictions). Surprisingly, this is one of the highest drinking ages in the world. Just to the north of the U.S. is Canada, which has a legal drinking age of 18 to 19, and the drinking age is far lower in many other nations. In fact, some nations have no minumum age for alcohol consumption (though there may be a minimum age for the purchase of alcohol)—although, the vast majority of these countries still have laws about how old one must be to purchase alcoholic beverages. Conversely, in a few nations (typically under strict Muslim rule), drinking is outlawed entirely.

Countries in which the consumption of alcohol is illegal:

Countries in which the drinking age varies by state/province:

  • Angola — Consumption limit is 18 in Luanda Province, no limit elsewhere
  • India — Prohibited in some provinces, 18-25 in others
  • Indonesia — Prohibited in Banda Aceh and Papua, 21 elsewhere
  • Nigeria — Prohibited in Borno, minimum are 18 in Abuja, no limit elsewhere
  • United Arab Emirates — Prohibited in Sharjah, 21 everywhere else

Countries in which the drinking age is 21:

  • Indonesia — Prohibited in Banda Aceh and Papua, 21 elsewhere
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia
  • Mongolia — 18 if with parents
  • Nauru
  • Oman
  • Pakistan — But prohibited for Muslims
  • Palau
  • Qatar — Residents may only consume at home, tourists only in select locations
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • United Arab Emirates — Prohibited in Sharjah, 21 everywhere else
  • United States — 18 in many states when at home or with parent

Countries in which the drinking age is 20:

Countries in which the drinking age is 18:

Countries in which the drinking age is 17:

  • Brunei Darussalam — Non-Muslims can drink at age 17 with restrictions
  • Malta

Countries in which the drinking age is 16:

  • Austria — 16 for wine and beer, 18 for spirits
  • Liechtenstein — 16 for beer and most drinks, 18 for spirits and alcopops/coolers
  • Lithuania — Though age to purchase is 20
  • Morocco — Non-Muslims only. Still prohibited for Muslims
  • Russia — Though age to purchase is 18
  • Uganda — 16 for some drinks consumed with restaurant meal, 18 otherwise

Countries with no legal age limit for consuming alcohol:

  • Algeria — Age to purchase is 18
  • Angola — Age to purchase is 18, consumption limit 18 in Luanda Province
  • Antigua and Barbuda — Age to purchase is 18 on-premise, no minimum off-premise
  • Argentina — Age to purchase is 18
  • Armenia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Azerbaijan — Age to purchase is 18
  • Bahamas — Age to purchase is 18
  • Barbados — Age to purchase is 16 on-premise, no minimum off-premise
  • Belarus — Age to purchase is 18
  • Belgium — Age to purchase is 16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits
  • Belize — Age to purchase is 18
  • Benin — Age to purchase is 20
  • Bhutan — Age to purchase is 18
  • Bolivia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina — Age to purchase is 18
  • Botswana — Age to purchase is 18
  • Brazil — Age to purchase is 18
  • Bulgaria — Age to purchase is 18
  • Burkina Faso — Age to purchase is 13 for males, 16 for females
  • Burundi — Age to purchase is 18 unless accompanied by parent
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon — Age to purchase is 18 on-premise, 21 off-premise
  • Canada — Age to purchase is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, & Quebec, 19 elsewhere
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad — Age to purchase is 18 unless accompanied by adult
  • China — Age to purchase is 18
  • Congo (Dem. Republic) — Age to purchase is 18
  • Congo (Republic of) — Age to purchase is 16 on-premise, 18 off-premise
  • Comoros — No limits for non-Muslims, prohibited for Muslims
  • Croatia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Cuba — Age to purchase is 16
  • Czech Republic — Age to purchase is 18
  • Denmark — Age to purchase is 18 (16 for off-premise wine and beer)
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica — Age to purchase is 16
  • Dominican Republic — Age to purchase is 18
  • Ecuador — Age to purchase is 18
  • Egypt — Age to purchase is 21
  • El Salvador — Age to purchase is 18
  • Eritrea — Age to purchase is 25
  • Eswatini — Age to purchase is 18
  • Ethiopia — Age to purchase is 21
  • Fiji — Age to purchase is 18
  • France — Age to purchase is 18
  • Gabon — Age to purchase is 18 for on-site, no minimum for off-site
  • Gambia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Georgia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Germany — 16 for beer and wine (14 if with parent or guardian), 18 for spirits
  • Ghana — Age to purchase is 18
  • Grenada — Age to purchase is 16 for on-site, no minimum for off-site
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana — Age to purchase is 16 for on-premise beer and wine, 18 otherwise
  • Haiti
  • Honduras — Age to purchase is 18
  • Hungary — Age to purchase is 18
  • Iceland — Age to purchase is 20
  • Italy — Age to purchase is 18
  • Jamaica — Age to purchase is 18
  • Jordan — Age to purchase is 18
  • Kenya — Age to purchase is 18
  • Kyrgyzstan — Age to purchase is 18
  • Laos — Age to purchase is 18
  • Lebanon — Age to purchase is 18
  • Liberia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Luxembourg — Age to purchase is 16
  • Malawi — Age to purchase is 18
  • Malaysia — Age to purchase is 21
  • Mali — Age to purchase is 15 for beer and wine, no minimum for spirits
  • Mauritius — Age to purchase is 18
  • Moldova — Age to purchase is 18
  • Monaco — Age to purchase is 18
  • Montenegro — Age to purchase is 18
  • Myanmar — Age to purchase is 18
  • Namibia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Nepal — Age to purchase is 21
  • New Zealand — Age to purchase is 18
  • Nicaragua — Age to purchase is 18
  • Niger — Age to purchase is 18
  • Nigeria — No minimum except in Abuja (18) and Borno (prohibited)
  • North Macedonia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Norway — Age to purchase is 18 for beer and wine, 20 for spirits
  • Panama — Age to purchase is 18
  • Paraguay — Age to purchase is 20
  • Peru — Age to purchase is 18
  • Philippines — Age to purchase is 18
  • Poland — Age to purchase is 18
  • Rwanda — Age to purchase is 18
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis — Age to purchase is 18
  • Saint Lucia — Age to purchase is 16
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — Age to purchase is 18
  • San Marino — Age to purchase is 16
  • Senegal — Age to purchase is 18
  • Seychelles — Age to purchase is 18
  • Sierra Leone — Age to purchase is 18
  • Singapore — Age to purchase is 18
  • Slovenia — Age to purchase is 18
  • South Africa — Age to purchase is 18
  • South Korea — Age to purchase is 19
  • South Sudan — Age to purchase is 18
  • Spain — Age to purchase is 18
  • Sri Lanka — Age to purchase is 21
  • Suriname — Age to purchase is 18
  • Sweden — Age to purchase is 20 for off-premise wine and spirits, 18 otherwise
  • Switzerland — Age to purchase is 16 for beer and wine, 18 for spirits
  • Syria — Age to purchase is 18
  • Tajikstan — Age to purchase is 18
  • Thailand — Age to purchase is 20
  • Timor Leste
  • Togo — Age to purchase is 18 for on-premise, no minimum for on-premise
  • Tonga — Age to purchase is 18
  • Trinidad and Tobago — Age to purchase is 18
  • Tunisia — Age to purchase is 18
  • Turkey — Age to purchase is 18
  • Turkmenistan — Age to purchase is 18
  • Ukraine — Age to purchase is 18
  • United Kingdom — Age to purchase is 16 for onsite beer/wine/cider when consumed with meal in company of adult, 18 otherwise
  • Uruguay — Age to purchase is 18
  • Uzbekistan — Age to purchase is 20
  • Venezuela — Age to purchase is 18
  • Zimbabwe — Age to purchase is 18 (lower w parental permission)

Alcohol abstinence around the world

Perhaps surprisingly, a 2018 report from the World Health Organization concluded that 57% of the Earth's adult population (in other words, 3.113 billion of the people aged 15 or older) had not consumed alcoholic beverages in 2016. In fact, 44% of global adults had never consumed alcoholic beverages at all.

According to the report, more than 50% of people in the Americas, Europe, and the Western Pacific Region (Japan, Australia, Oceania) drank alcoholic beverages in 2016. By comparison, only 32.2% of people in Africa and 33.1% of people in South-East Asia (India, North Korea, Sri Lanka, etc.) drank in 2016. What's more, 94.9% of people in the Eastern Mediterranean region (Egypt, Iran, Yemen, etc.) have abstained from alcohol their entire lives. Alcohol consumption, it should be noted, is illegal in many Eastern Mediterranean countries, at least for Muslims.

Drinking Age in Australia

The drinking age in Australia starts at 18. No vendor can sell to anyone who already has had too much to drink, and no one can drive with more than .05 percent of blood alcohol content in their system.

Supplying Alcohol to Minors

In many places of the world, you cannot buy alcohol for people under the minimum drinking age of that location. Usually, the only exception is for a parent or guardian buying for their own child. However, not all Australian locations require a parent or guardian present when a minor receives alcohol. Permission must always be obtained by the parent or guardian, however. Not all states or provinces have the same rules regarding this.

Dry Areas (No Alcohol Allowed)

Australia designates many places as “dry” or “alcohol-free” areas. Some of these include blocks 7 and 23 in the Canberra Central District and near the Canberra Theatre Center. Several sections of Phillip Park, large portions of Sydney and Queensland also have dry areas. Likewise, Melbourne City, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania designate their own alcohol-free sections.

Alcohol Advertising

Australia abides by the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code. These regulations govern where vendors can market alcoholic products. These codes also control the content shown on radio and TV or in print or on outdoor signs featuring advertisement. The Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code also regulates the way adult beverages are promoted on social and digital media.

Drinking Age in Canada

The drinking age in Canada varies by province, which for most is 19. However, you can drink at 18 in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec as of 2020.

Minors Drinking

Minors may not always have permission to drink, depending on where they live. People underage can drink under parental supervision in some locations such as Manitoba and New Brunswick.

This pertains to public consumption on “licensed premises.” Prince Edward Island, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan allow serving to minors at home.

Drinking Age History

Canada used to now allow people to drink until age 20-21. In the 1970s, that’s when the country’s provinces and territories began to lower the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) to either 18 or 19 years old.

MLDA Impact

Apparently, studies concerning MLDAs demonstrated crash reductions and less alcohol consumption related to raised MLDAs. Reports also revealed possible decreased long-term effects otherwise caused by drinking too much, especially when driving. Therefore, Canada does recognize MLDA research and a need for a minimum drinking age in general even if not as high as other places, such as in the U.S.

Will Drinking Age Rise?

In 2018, talk of raising the drinking age in Canada did happen. However, Quebec Premier François Legault said that the province is not at this time planning to raise the drinking age. After more people drank more when ordered to stay home in 2020, however, who knows what the future will hold for this country?

Drinking Age in England

It’s not uncommon for European nations to serve alcohol to a child as young as five years old. However, the drinking age in the UK is 18, which is when young people can legally drink or buy alcohol in public.

Drinking at Home

At home, parents or guardians can allow their children to have alcohol. However, the UK chief recommends that underage persons not drink at least until they are 15. Usually, children as young as five don’t drink much, and having more than probably a few sips is not typically advised. Some experts might say to not allow young people to drink more than once a week.

At a Restaurant

Children 16 and 17 years old can receive wine from a parent, but they cannot buy it themselves at a restaurant. In this case, the permission applies to drinking while a meal is served, which usually is how alcohol is consumed when families drink together.

Going Into Pubs (Taverns)

Children can enter a pub, tavern or similar establishment accompanied by a parent if under 16 or 17 years old. However, they must be at least 16 when with their elders to drink or by alcohol. If going alone, they must be 18 to buy or drink.

Drinking Age in France

The Minimum Drinking Age in France is 18 for purchases and consumption of all alcoholic beverages. As of 2009, French teenagers could still buy wine, beer, and other fermented beverages at 16. However, that’s when talk of raising the minimum age spread.

The Culture

European nations serve alcohol at most meals, and the idea is not for drunkenness but for sipping. Furthermore, most of the countries, including France and Italy, consume alcohol with food. The concept of drinking seems to be less of a “big deal” in Europe than in America. Still, some concerns arise, especially among young people.

Youth Drinking Concerns

Italy, France and other European nations have high rates of alcohol consumption among the youth. They grew up with it, and for some reason, they feel compelled to overindulge more than adults. Researchers and public institutions continue to advocate less drinking among teenagers and children.

Raising the drinking age in France is part of that initiative. School-age children and young adults also receive some of the same warnings about drinking too much alcohol as do the adults.

Adult Drinking Concerns

On average, adult Europeans consume about three drinks per day. This calculates close to what the United States constitutes as being “a drink.” It's usually measured as approximately 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or a shot of hard liquor.

The European daily drinking limit is now one drink above what the France public health services recommends. Health services guidelines advise people to only drink a maximum of two alcoholic beverages at a time and not to do it every single day.

Drinking Age in Germany

The Minimum Legal Drinking Age in Germany is 16 for both drinking wine and beer at an establishment and at home. However, the age raises to 18 when purchasing “spirits” (a.k.a. hard liquor), but 16-year-olds can buy beer or wine.

Will Drinking Age Rise?

On February 18, 2020, the German Government stated that they will not raise the drinking age to 18. Instead, the government responded to the Green Party’s concerns by advocating responsible alcohol use, which they believe is working.

Alcohol Consumption Decline

The Ministry of Health and other organizations have shown a decline in alcohol consumption. This data accounts for usage within a few years prior to 2018. Apparently, between 2014-2018, young persons between 12-17 have consumed less alcohol. Moreover, binge-drinking decreased. It’s because of this decline that the government believes the education about responsible alcohol use is working.

2020 Alcohol Consumption

During the year when most people were expected to stay home worldwide because of the Covid-19 quarantines, alcohol use still declined. Beer consumption dropped by more than 5 percent, wine sales declined by more than 2 percent, and spirit sales decreased by almost one percent.

This is different than much of the rest of the world staying at home this year. For many countries, alcohol used had increased, but not for Germany.

Drinking Age in Ireland

Only public businesses that have the proper license can sell alcohol, and the drinking age in Ireland is at least 18. Restaurants, hotels and resorts or pubs all have to abide by rules stating what hours of the day they can serve, and they could end up with fines, jail time or closure if they sell to minors.

Alcohol sales regulations

With the new Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 came with it updated alcohol sale regulations. These include prohibition of volume alcohol purchase discounts. This means grocery stores cannot offer percentages or monetary units (euros) off bulk alcohol purchases. Pubs could also lose their alcohol licenses, and owners maybe could end up in jail if they serve to minors.

Alcohol purchase laws

The court could sentence an adult a fine of at least €1500 ($1751.75 USD) if they buy alcohol for a minor. However, the Intoxicating Liquor Act states that individual adults or establishments could face penalties of up to €5000, which equals approximately $5819.30 USD.

Public intoxication laws

Anyone in Ireland drunk in public could face fines of at least €100-€500, which equals up to about $116-$582 USD. Disorderly conduct could result in more serious consequences, including stiffer fines or jail time.

Driving blood alcohol limits

Drivers in Ireland cannot have more than .05 percent blood alcohol concentration in their systems. If police catch people operating a vehicle above this BAC limit, they could face at least hundreds of dollars of fines. This country also does sentence people to jail and suspends licenses for varying periods depending on the offence.

Drinking Age in Italy

If you are traveling or studying in Italy, you might need to know what the drinking age is there. Youth ages 16 and over can purchase alcohol with the appropriate identification. Usually, any official photo ID works.

The Culture

According to Time magazine, Italy is considered a “sipping culture.” It’s not that people don’t get intoxicated here.

However, the overall alcohol consumption rate (technically referred to as “alcoholism”) measures lower than some other European nations and the United States. It’s why Italy now attempts to control teenage drinking more than they did in the past.

Selling to Minors

Apparently, Italy doesn’t enforce the minimum drinking age as much as other countries might. However, Milan has become stricter about serving alcohol to minors since 2009. At this time, fines were up to $700 for an adult purchasing alcohol for a minor. Citations probably have raised since.

Drinking on the Street

The country also has experienced greater penalties for drinking on the street as of 2020. In Florence, Italy, where they don’t sell alcohol in stores past 9pm, they issue fines of €500. This equals a little more than $500 USD.

Drinking and Driving

You cannot have more than a .05 percent BAC if you decide to drive in Italy. If convicted of driving while intoxicated, you could face hefty fines of at least hundreds of euros or more. Vehicle compensation, loss of license and jail time could also occur.

Drinking Age in Jamaica

The drinking age in Jamaica is still 18 as of 2021. Before deciding to drink in this country at ages less than 18, you should check your local laws. In some cases, countries do prosecute underage drinking outside their borders even if the vacation destination allows it at a lower age.

Violating the Drinking Age

Typically, U.S. law enforcement – or police from any country – leave you alone if you’re inside Jamaica and are at least 18 when drinking. However, you could possibly end up in trouble if still intoxicated when coming back into the U.S. or wherever home is to you if not allowed to drink when not yet 18.

Drinking on Ships

Since Jamaica exists in the water, concern about underage drinking prevails. Therefore, no one can consume alcohol on cruise ships unless they are at least 21. However, most of the local bars allow it on the premises.

Alcohol Availability

You can find alcohol just about any time of the day or night in Jamaica. Apparently, minors are even allowed to buy it in certain settings, but overall, the drinking age remains at 18. Most people here accept partying and alcohol to be the norm.

Alcohol Consumption

About 48 percent of people in Jamaica do binge-drink. Despite this island’s drinking age, some people who consume excess alcohol have not turned 18 yet.

Drinking Age in Japan

Japan has the second-highest drinking age in the world compared to most locations where the minimum age is 21 In Japan, you must be at least 20 years old to purchase and consume alcohol. You can use your passport for your ID at local establishments such as bars or restaurants.

Enforcement Challenges

Even though Japan does have laws that prohibit minors from consuming alcohol, it’s difficult to enforce. Alcoholic beverages available in vending machines pose a challenge with controlling underage drinking. The country doesn’t take drinking and driving lightly, however, whether you are underage or not.

Drinking and Driving Rules

Japan seems to have some of the harshest drinking and driving rules around the world. A blood alcohol content measuring only .03-.04 percent could land someone in prison for up to three years. It’s up to five years in prison for convictions that involve a .04 BAC or more. You could also end up with a fine of approximately 1.3 million yen ($10,000 USD) and lose your license for good.

Public Drinking, and Buying or Selling

You can drink in public in Japan, unlike many other countries. Since you can, you’ll see commuters sitting on trains or even sleeping where everyone can see them before driving again.

As far as buying alcohol, you can make your purchase just about anytime of the day or night at convenience stores in Japan. Vendors must, however, acquire licenses that pertain to the types of spirits they plan to sell, such as wine, beer or liquor.

Drinking Age in Mexico

The drinking age in Mexico in most states is at least 18 years old. No place in Mexico allows minors to buy alcohol, and people claiming to be of age must present identification at time of purchase. This established minimum age does control alcohol use, but the country also addresses other alcohol-related issues.

Underage drinking issues

U.S. Teenagers often travel to Mexico from Texas and other border states. However, they’re not allowed to drink if the minimum age of doing so is not 18 where they live. In any case, jail time or fines often are issued to underage drinkers who get caught if they’re not 18. Law enforcement also issues penalties to minors from a country where they can’t drink at this age.

Public intoxication laws

You cannot walk around with open alcohol containers in public, unless perhaps it’s at a bar or restaurant that serves cocktails or beer. People even have gotten caught consuming alcohol in secluded areas and fined or jailed. Carrying flasks or other closed containers is technically illegal too. However, law enforcement doesn’t usually make an issue out of it unless someone commits vandalism, human violence or other unruly act.

DUI blood alcohol limits

Persons operating a motor vehicle in Mexico cannot have more than a .08 percent of alcohol in their system. A first DUI offense could land a person in jail for up to 48 hours without being charged and cost them up to about $50881.26 pesos ($2500 USD) in fines. After the second time, a driver loses their license for up to three years.

Drinking Age in Puerto Rico

Talk of changing the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) to 21 peaked in 2013. However, the drinking age in Puerto Rico has remained 18 as of 2020. Heavy drinking has its consequences, so lawmakers continue to try raising Puerto Rico's MLDA.

History of MLDA Legislation

In November 2013, Democratic Party representative for the territory Puerto Rico Carlos Vargas pushed for making the MLDA 21 years old. The territory held out even after the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 came into effect. Before 1984, the age at which young people could buy alcohol varied by state even more so than when some states raised it to 21.

Economic Consequences

Puerto Rico did not receive any highway funding from the U.S. Federal Government because they refused to raise the drinking age to 21 years. It affected this island’s economy so much that more than 54,000 people residing there had left. Some bars, however, will not allow patrons to enter unless they are 21 even if the drinking age has not yet increased.

Youth Alcohol Consumption

Statistics do show the effect of having the drinking age set at 21 instead of 18, which is why lawmakers still try to convince Puerto Rico to change the MLDA. It does seem to cause less accidents and fatalities, especially in the young people.

About 90 percent of alcohol consumption in people under 21 involves binge drinking, and a 2016 report states that about 1 in 8 people on the island struggle with alcohol abuse. These statistics could possibly drive Puerto Rico to raise their drinking age at some point.

Drinking Age in Spain

The drinking age in Spain is 18 as reported in 2020, and the country has a similar culture as does Italy, France and other European nations. They often sip light alcohol such as wine or beer with meals, and some concerns do arise pertaining this approach used to control alcohol misuse.

Attitudes Toward Drinking

Families typically serve alcohol with meals, and children as young as five years old are allowed to have at least a little taste. The idea behind removing the shame associated with alcohol is thought to maybe teach people to use this substance in moderation. It can possibly teach a person not to consume alcohol to excess, but it doesn’t mean no one in Spain struggles with drinking too much.

Youth Binge Drinking

Most European Spanish families teach their children that they can enjoy alcohol in moderation. This coincides with safe alcohol limits for adults, which would be no more than one or two drinks per day. In this case, experts define one drink as approximately one can of beer or one glass of wine. However, new recommendations state that it’s better not to drink every single day.

In any case, young binge-drinking remains a concern. Therefore, the minimum age at which a young person can buy alcohol in Spain stays at 18 as of 2021. It used to be 16 years old.

Drinking Age by Country 2022

Drinking Age by Country 2022

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