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).
Traditionally a smoker-friendly country, Belgium has seen a significant extension of smoking bans in recent years, including in some outdoor areas. As in most EU countries, heavily regulated smoking rooms are still permitted. Belgium does not prohibit cigarette vending machines and it does not have a display ban. However, it currently has the largest health warnings on tobacco in the EU and the warnings must include graphic images.
Life is even worse for vapers. Vaping is banned wherever smoking is banned and e-cigarettes are subject to medical regulations, meaning that nicotine-containing fluid is effectively prohibited nationwide.
Belgium has legal limits on the amount of salt that can be put into bread, cheese and meat.
On the plus side, taxes on beer, wine and spirits are all relatively low and owners of bars and restaurants have the freedom to choose when they stop serving alcohol.