Welcome to the second 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).
Download the pdf here.
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).
France’s reputation as a laid back place to drink and smoke has taken a battering in recent years. Taxes on wine are very low but this is the only consolation for drinkers. In 1991, France introduced some of the world’s most restrictive laws on alcohol advertising, banning it entirely on television. Alcohol sponsorship is restricted to such an extent that when Carlsberg sponsored the Euro 2016 football championships, it was unable to show the beer or name the brand. Some radio advertising is permitted but only late at night. There are ongoing discussions about banning happy hour.
For smokers, there is a near-total ban on tobacco and e-cigarette advertising (only point of sale and the trade press are excluded) and an extensive ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces (some smoking rooms are permitted). A display ban is in place and France is one of only three countries in the world to have introduced plain packaging (in May 2016). Large increases in tobacco taxation in the last decade have left the French with the third highest cigarette duty in the EU. Despite this frenzy of activity, France’s smoking rate is higher than that of countries which have taken a more liberal approach, such as the Czech Republic, Germany and Luxembourg.
If that were not enough, there is also a tax on sweetened drinks and energy drinks, including low calorie varieties (€0.08 per litre). France has had a tax on energy drinks since 2013 and has recently discussed putting sin taxes on fast food and confectionery. Free refills of soft drinks were banned in January 2017.
E-cigarettes are legal and vaping is not banned but there are proposals to heavily restrict it indoors.
With thanks to Institut Économique Molinari