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).
France’s reputation as a laid back place to drink and smoke has taken a beating 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. All alcohol sponsorship is prohibited. Some radio advertising is permitted but only late at night. Some outdoor advertising is permitted but the content is heavily restricted and adverts must be accompanied by health warnings. There are ongoing discussions about banning happy hour.
For smokers, there is a near-total ban on tobacco advertising (only point of sale and the trade press are excluded), an extensive ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces (some smoking rooms are permitted). Smoking in cars carrying passengers under the age of 12 will soon be banned. Graphic warnings and a display ban are already in place and plain packaging is in the pipeline. Large increases in tobacco taxation in the last decade have left the French with the third highest cigarette duty in the EU.
Vaping is not yet banned but there are proposals to heavily restrict it indoors. E-cigarette advertising is currently legal but heavily regulated.
If that were not enough, there is also a tax on sweetened drinks and energy drinks, including low calorie varieties.