Navigating Age Restrictions in Sweden

In Sweden, online gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and OTC medicine can only be accessed by consumers of a certain age. They are collectively known as “age-restricted products and services.”

Since they are available online, businesses must be able to verify the ages of their digital users.

Introducing age restrictions in Sweden

Age restrictions in Sweden are often seen to be stricter than the other Nordic countries. In truth, Sweden has largely the same age limitations as their neighbors. Betting and gambling OTC medicine, and tobacco can be accessed by anyone aged 18 or above.

But Sweden does tend to show somewhat stricter tendencies in certain areas, such as alcohol. For many decades, alcohol consumption in Sweden has been limited by the government-owned liquor store Systembolaget. Even though Vinmonopolet in Norway and Alko in Finland have the same government-owned structure, Sweden is the only country that strictly limits the purchase of beverages above 3,5% to 20 years of age. Anyone selling alcohol to a person under 20 can be punished by a fine or imprisonment of up to two years (or even up to four years in severe cases).

Young consumers are also protected by other laws. It’s illegal for minors to sell age-restricted products, and employees selling alcohol must be at least 20 years of age. Marketing should not encourage the use of alcohol, be intrusive, or directed at consumers under the age of 25. By comparison, Danish law limits similar marketing from targeting consumers under the age of 18. The Swedish alcohol marketing law applies to beverages above 2,25% and affects the design, marketing placement, and messaging.

Rising concerns

Alcohol isn’t the only area where such protective laws exist. Nicotine and online gambling industries are becoming similarly affected.

The increased use and debate regarding tobacco-free nicotine pouches made the government enact new regulations. In late 2022, these were restricted to consumers above 18.

When it comes to gambling, the law states that advertising must not be directed towards consumers under 18. Despite this, two-thirds of 16-17-year-olds have been exposed to gambling commercials, according to a 2021 study by USUF. This was mainly driven by social media, where minors are more easily exposed to messaging by gambling companies.

The topic of age verification in social media has been discussed in the political sphere. In 2023, the Nordic Think Tank for Tech and Democracy suggested that age verification on social media platforms should be incorporated into Swedish law. 

Already back in 2016, the government hinted at restricting social media use to people over 16, but no final decision was made, so the age limit remains at 13. The problem remains relevant as some children acquire accounts already at the age of eight.

List of age restrictions

We have listed age restrictions across eight different sectors.

Industry Age restriction
Alcohol purchase

Up to 3,5% alcohol content: 18
Above 3,5% alcohol content: 20

Energy drinks 15 (recommended)
Tobacco and nicotine 18
Over-the-counter (OTC) medicine 18
Online gambling and betting 18
Driving a car 18
Solarium use 18
Fireworks 18

Read more about them in detail below:

1. Alcohol purchase

In Sweden, shoppers in stores can purchase beverages with an alcohol content of up to 3.5% at 18 and stronger beverages at 20. However, the age limit for buying alcohol at bars and restaurants is 18. Stronger alcohol above 3,5% is sold exclusively at the state-owned Systembolaget. Systembolaget and the age restrictions were introduced in 1955 as part of the government’s initiative to minimize alcohol’s negative societal impact.

2. Energy drinks

Sweden does not enforce a specific legal age limit for purchasing energy drinks. However, due to concerns over caffeine content, some retailers choose to impose an age restriction of 15. This came about as a national industry agreement in the Swedish grocery trade (Svensk dagligvaruhandel) to protect youths from overconsuming caffeine through energy drinks.

3. Tobacco and nicotine

The legal age for purchasing tobacco and nicotine products, including cigarettes, snus, e-cigarettes, and tobacco-free nicotine pouches is 18. These regulations aim to discourage young people from starting to smoke or consume nicotine early, in alignment with Sweden's commitment to public health.

4. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicine

The age limit for OTC medicine is 18. By law, OTC medicine must be out of reach of consumers, and only accessible by the store staff. This is to prevent people from accessing medicine on their own or opening packages before purchasing them.

5. Online gambling and betting

To engage in online gambling and betting in Sweden, individuals must be at least 18 years old. This age restriction aligns with the country's commitment to responsible gaming practices, which recognizes the potential risk and addictive qualities of online betting. It’s estimated that 3-4% of the Swedish population has some form of gambling addiction. Despite the age limit being 18, 34% of 16-17 year olds have gambled online according to a 2021 study. This highlights just how critical it is to verify a person’s age before they are authorized to gamble online.

6. Driving a car

People can get a driving license in Sweden at the age of 18. This age limit aims to ensure that individuals have the necessary maturity and judgment to safely navigate the road. Individuals can start to practice driving at 16 and must live up to a list of requirements.

7. Solarium use

Since September 1, 2018, the legal age for using a solarium (indoor tanning) is 18. This age restriction is in place to minimize the risks associated with excessive UV exposure such as skin cancer

8. Fireworks

Similar to many countries, Sweden has an age limit for fireworks: Buying, selling, and using fireworks is currently restricted to 18. This aims to ensure the safe handling of explosive materials and reduce the risks associated with fireworks usage, particularly during celebratory events.

The need for secure age verification processes

The above age restrictions underscore the significance of secure online verification systems.

In Sweden, both online gambling and the grocery delivery market are predicted to grow, respectively, by 7,59% and 10,97% annually over the next five years. Since age-restricted products can be ordered online, delivery services face an ever-growing need for secure age verification processes.

According to the law, the seller is responsible for ensuring that the customer is above the legal age. Customers must present a form of ID when their age is in doubt. When age verification happens online, a simple checkbox is not enough: The seller must be able to accurately verify the customer’s age.

In order to stay compliant, online age verification must be as secure as physical age verification.

Learn more about why businesses need strong age verification systems >

Age verification with Swedish BankID

In Sweden, the safest age verification process for online purchases is through the Swedish BankID. BankID is a widely adopted electronic identity (eID) in Sweden, used by more than 8,4 million people.

When users verify their identity using BankID, their name and date of birth are always validated at the highest security standard, helping businesses stay compliant.

The following video demonstrates how the BankID verification process might be implemented in a food delivery service offering alcohol:

 

Criipto offers a simple and secure way to integrate Swedish BankID.

Learn more about age verification and restrictions

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