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).
Since becoming the first country to introduce a full smoking ban in 2004, Ireland has prided itself on being a pioneer of lifestyle regulation. It was the first European country to pass legislation for plain packaging of tobacco, with plain packs due to hit the shelves in September 2017.
A new Alcohol Bill was initiated in 2015 and proposes a range of temperance policies, including minimum pricing (at €0.80 per unit*), advertising bans and even a display ban for alcohol in grocery shops, but the legislation has run into problems politically and may not be passed in the lifetime of the current parliament.
Ireland already has a host of other nanny state policies for food, tobacco and alcohol, and can boast some of the world’s highest sin taxes. The only EU member states with higher taxes on alcohol are the UK and Finland, and only Britain can rival Ireland’s huge tobacco taxes (which have risen by €1.40 a pack in the last three budgets). Spirits advertising is banned on TV and radio, and tobacco advertising is banned in all its forms. The advertising of a wide range of food products is banned on children’s television and there are plans to bring in a 9pm watershed for alcohol commercials.
Only vapers have so far escaped the fire of the paternalists. E-cigarettes can be bought and used without restriction and there has been no gold-plating of the EU Tobacco Products Directive. Domestic advertising and cross-border sales remain legal. The Department of Finance has encouraged the government to introduce a tax on e-cigarette liquids of €0.05 per ml, but there are officially no plans to do so.
A ban on smoking in cars if a person under the age of 18 is present came into effect on 1st January 2016 with a potential fine of €100. At the time of writing, nobody has been fined for breaching this law.
A tax on sugary drinks will come into effect in 2018.
*Based on a UK unit of 8 grams of alcohol. An Irish unit is 10 grams, making their minimum price €1.00.