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).
With high scores on every criteria, Finland is the EU’s number one nanny state in 2016. It has a range of food and drink taxes, an effective ban on e-cigarette sales and extremely high taxes on beer, wine and spirits.
Finland is one of only a few countries worldwide to levy a special tax on confectionery, chocolate and ice cream although this is due to be rescinded in 2017. Its tax on fizzy drinks will remain in place.
Alcohol prohibition ended in Finland in 1932 but the government continues to regulate alcohol very heavily. Spirits advertising is banned in all forms and restrictions on beer and wine advertising are severe, with a ban before 10pm on television and a near total outdoor ban (sport and music events are exempt). It has the EU’s highest beer tax, the second highest spirits tax, and the third highest wine duty. It is one of only two EU countries to have a state monopoly on alcohol sales, and discount promotions such as happy hours are banned outright.
Tobacco regulation is also heavy. In addition to a total ban on tobacco advertising there is a retail display ban and cigarettes cannot be sold from vending machines. There are few exemptions from its smoking ban, which includes some outdoor areas, and the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes is effectively banned because they are treated as medical products. Discussions are underway about treating them as tobacco products. Those who can get hold of e-cigarettes can use them indoors.