This is the first edition of the Nanny State Index, a league table of the worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape. The Nanny State Index is an initiative from the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER).
Christopher Snowdon is the head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. His research focuses on lifestyle freedoms, prohibition and policy-based evidence. He is a regular contributor to the Spectator Health blog and often appears on TV and radio discussing social and economic issues.
Snowdon’s work encompasses a diverse range of topics including ‘sin taxes’, state funding of charities, happiness economics, ‘public health’ regulation, gambling and the black market. Recent publications include ‘Drinking, Fast and Slow’, ‘The Proof of the Pudding: Denmark’s Fat Tax Fiasco’, ‘The Crack Cocaine of Gambling?’, ‘The Wages of Sin Taxes’, ‘Drinking in the Shadow Economy’, ‘Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why’ and ‘Closing Time: Who’s killing the British pub?’. He is also the author of ‘Selfishness, Greed and Capitalism’ (2015), ‘The Art of Suppression’ (2011), ‘The Spirit Level Delusion’ (2010) and ‘Velvet Glove, Iron Fist’ (2009).
Most of the taxes, laws and regulations covered in the Nanny State Index (NSI) were introduced on grounds of ‘public health’. To see whether they work, we have compared NSI scores with health outcomes. As the graph below shows, the big picture is that there is no correlation between nanny state regulation and higher life expectancy.
Drilling down into the data, we can see that there is also no correlation between heavy regulation of alcohol and lower rates of alcohol consumption.
And there is also no correlation between nanny state anti-smoking policies and lower smoking rates.
A similar analysis for obesity is not possible as few countries currently have heavy regulation of food and soft drinks. We have not attempted an analysis of e-cigarette laws as it is unclear what governments are trying to achieve when they over-regulate this product.