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).
Like Ireland, the UK has seen a slew of lifestyle regulations in recent years. Its smoking ban, introduced in 2007, allows fewer exemptions than that of almost any other country and was extended to cars carrying passengers under the age of 18 in 2015.
The UK has some particularly punitive sin taxes. Its taxes on cigarettes and wine are the highest in the EU. Only Finland has a higher rate of beer duty and its spirits duty is higher than every non-Scandinavian member state.
Off trade alcohol discount deals such as buy-one-get-one-free are banned in Scotland. There is a ban on sugary drinks in Scottish hospitals and both the Scottish and Welsh governments support minimum pricing for alcohol.
In 2008, Britain became the first EU country to mandate graphic warnings on cigarettes and cigarette vending machines were banned in 2011. A full retail display ban followed in 2015. Plain packaging for tobacco is due to be introduced in May 2016.
The only sliver of liberalism comes in its policy on e-cigarettes. Although the Welsh Assembly has proposed banning e-cigarettes in many indoor public places, no legislation forbids e-cigarette use in the UK. E-cigarette advertising is legal and regulated.