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).
Unlike its Scandinavian neighbours to the north, Denmark has a relaxed attitude towards alcohol advertising and it is the cheapest place in Scandinavia to drink beer, wine and spirits. It is also the only Nordic country that does not have a statutory closing time for bars.
The Danes have graphic warnings on tobacco products and a cigarette vending machine ban is in place but there is no retail display ban. More importantly for smokers, indoor use is much less restricted than in most EU countries. Although smoking is generally prohibited, there is an exemption for small pubs, and smoking rooms of any size are permitted in bars and restaurants.
Denmark’s attitude to e-cigarettes is rather less enlightened, however. They are classified as medical products which means that they are effectively banned from sale and cannot be advertised. This is expected to change when the EU’s new Tobacco Products Directive comes into force in May 2016. In the meantime, if you can get hold of an e-cigarette in Denmark, vaping is permitted in public places.
Denmark was the first country in the world to limit the use of trans fats in manufactured food to such an extent that they are effectively banned. There is a tax on confectionery but a disastrous tax on saturated fat was repealed in 2013. The Danish government subsequently abandoned its plans for a sugar tax, abolished its tax on sugary drinks and cut its beer duty.