Christopher Snowdon

Head of Lifestyle Economics
 

Christopher Snowdon is the Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA. He is the author of The Art of Suppression, The Spirit Level Delusion and Velvet Glove; Iron Fist. His work focuses on pleasure, prohibition and dodgy statistics. He has authored a number of publications including Sock Puppets, Euro Puppets, The Proof of the Pudding, The Crack Cocaine of Gambling and Free Market Solutions in Health.


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Recent Posts

  • It is not obvious that the world needs an alcohol strategy

    Last year the World Health Organization launched a public consultation on its draft “Global Alcohol Strategy to Reduce the Harmful … Continue reading "It is not obvious that the world needs an alcohol strategy"



  • The NHS blame game

    The British love affair with the NHS requires a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. On the one hand, it is … Continue reading "The NHS blame game"


  • Norwegian sugar tax sends sweet-lovers over border to Sweden

    It seems unfair to call it a sweet shop. In the shopping centre north of Charlottenberg in south-western Sweden, barely … Continue reading "Norwegian sugar tax sends sweet-lovers over border to Sweden"


  • A reply to the British Medical Journal

    When the BBC reported last month that Arron Banks had given £450,000 to Nigel Farage, I tweeted ironically: “So now … Continue reading "A reply to the British Medical Journal"


  • On inequality, the BBC’s headline doesn’t line up with the facts

    Imagine if a sports journalist regularly described Sergio Agüero as a Manchester United player and insisted that West Bromwich Albion … Continue reading "On inequality, the BBC’s headline doesn’t line up with the facts"


  • Still Hand in Glove? A reexamination of taxpayer-funded activism

    It’s been seven years since I first published research with the IEA about state-funded activism, and five years since I last tackled … Continue reading "Still Hand in Glove? A reexamination of taxpayer-funded activism"


  • Britain does not have an ‘underemployment’ problem

    When I was growing up, unemployment was the great economic concern of our time. If I’d been born a little … Continue reading "Britain does not have an ‘underemployment’ problem"


  • Book Review: The Coddling of the American Mind

    Before reading this book, I viewed the phenomena of ‘snowflake’ protests and extreme political correctness on American campuses as being essentially … Continue reading "Book Review: The Coddling of the American Mind"


  • Book Review: “The Inner Level”

    One of the most talked-about books of 2009 was The Spirit Level, by the social epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard … Continue reading "Book Review: “The Inner Level”"


  • Flawed EU regulations on e-cigarettes have set the market back

    I ordered 200 millilitres of e-cigarette fluid from my online retailer this week. Not a large quantity – it is … Continue reading "Flawed EU regulations on e-cigarettes have set the market back"



  • Colour me surprised: effects of Sugar Tax exactly as predicted

    Coca-Cola’s decision to shrink its bottles and raise its prices has raised eyebrows, but the economics of it are straightforward. In … Continue reading "Colour me surprised: effects of Sugar Tax exactly as predicted"


  • Plain packaging in Australia, 5 years on: We told you so

    Today is the fifth anniversary of the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco in Australia. Don’t expect much in the … Continue reading "Plain packaging in Australia, 5 years on: We told you so"


  • Why nudges are nothing to fear

    Richard Thaler, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, was announced as this year’s winner of … Continue reading "Why nudges are nothing to fear"


  • Labour, the Gulag, and persistent denial

    Book Review: Labour and the Gulag: Russia and the Seduction of the British Left, by Giles Udy When was the date … Continue reading "Labour, the Gulag, and persistent denial"



  • A thought experiment: what if everyone stopped drinking, smoking and overeating?

    In these uncertain economic times, there is no better way for a lobbyist to get politicians’ attention than by promising … Continue reading "A thought experiment: what if everyone stopped drinking, smoking and overeating?"


  • Review: ‘Utopia for Realists’ by Rutger Bregman

    First published in the Netherlands in 2014 and now republished in English with a retina-burning, bright orange jacket, Rutger Bregman’s … Continue reading "Review: ‘Utopia for Realists’ by Rutger Bregman"


  • The false economy of the UK sugar levy

    When George Osborne found himself having to present a list of missed economic targets in the last budget, he pulled … Continue reading "The false economy of the UK sugar levy"


  • The NHS’s healthy living delusion

    Of all the attempts of NHS mandarins to blame patients for the spiralling costs of their bureaucratic leviathan, Simon Stevens’ … Continue reading "The NHS’s healthy living delusion"


  • Alcohol guidelines and the state

    The Times today leads with the news that the government’s new alcohol guidelines were drafted by neo-temperance activists from the … Continue reading "Alcohol guidelines and the state"



  • Don’t keep it local

    Last year, Exeter became the latest city in Britain to introduce a local currency. Totnes, Bristol and Lewes had already … Continue reading "Don’t keep it local"


  • Britain is amongst the EU’s most meddlesome nanny states

    Yesterday saw the publication of the first ever Nanny State Index. It looks at 32 criteria and 28 countries to … Continue reading "Britain is amongst the EU’s most meddlesome nanny states"


  • The anti-sockpuppet clause

    Having written several reports about state-funded activism for the Institute of Economic Affairs, it’s pleasing to see the government acting … Continue reading "The anti-sockpuppet clause"


  • It’s our money. Let us know how it’s being spent.

    Stephen Bubb, chairman of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), has written an article for the Telegraph … Continue reading "It’s our money. Let us know how it’s being spent."


  • Advertising: far less ‘powerful’ than you think

    ‘If advertising doesn’t work, why do companies spend so much money on it?’ This is the zinger that is supposed … Continue reading "Advertising: far less ‘powerful’ than you think"


  • Farewell minimum pricing, we barely knew ye

    The European Court of Justice has today ruled that minimum pricing for alcohol is illegal if less restrictive measures, such … Continue reading "Farewell minimum pricing, we barely knew ye"


  • Death and taxes

    George Orwell defined ‘doublethink’ as the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time and to believe that … Continue reading "Death and taxes"


  • Taxing sugary drinks invariably hurts the poor

    A tax on sugar – and on sugary drinks in particular – has become a cornerstone of the campaign for … Continue reading "Taxing sugary drinks invariably hurts the poor"


  • 10 years of so-called 24 hour drinking

    ‘Everybody is drunk. Those who are not singing are sprawling. The sovereign people are in a beastly state.’ So reported … Continue reading "10 years of so-called 24 hour drinking"


  • Neoliberalism: a sick obsession

    Does free-market capitalism foster an environment in which death and disease flourish? That is the question asked by academics Ted … Continue reading "Neoliberalism: a sick obsession"


  • The rich get richer and the poor get… richer.

    The general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, said last year that Britain is a country in which … Continue reading "The rich get richer and the poor get… richer."


  • Does nanny know best?

    Last night, I spoke by video link to Australia’s ‘Nanny State Enquiry’. These were my opening remarks… My hope is … Continue reading "Does nanny know best?"


  • Where next for minimum pricing?

    It seems likelier than ever that the European Union will prevent Scotland and Ireland introducing minimum pricing for alcohol. The … Continue reading "Where next for minimum pricing?"


  • Do drinkers pay their way?

    There is a persistent belief that drinkers are a burden on the British taxpayer. In the narrative of ‘Booze Britain’, … Continue reading "Do drinkers pay their way?"


  • Why the government shouldn’t intervene in the sugar market

    Sugar is much in the news at the moment, with the British Medical Association calling for a tax on sugary … Continue reading "Why the government shouldn’t intervene in the sugar market"


  • The death and rebirth of relative poverty figures

    In a classic Beyond the Fringe sketch, Peter Cook is a cult leader sat atop a mountain awaiting the end … Continue reading "The death and rebirth of relative poverty figures"


  • The Spirit Level revisited

    Five years ago, in May 2010, I published The Spirit Level Delusion in response to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s … Continue reading "The Spirit Level revisited"


  • The great ’24 hour drinking’ panic

    Do you remember the great booze scare of 2004-05? Think back, you must recall it. The prophecies of doom about … Continue reading "The great ’24 hour drinking’ panic"


  • Physical inactivity and obesity – don’t be fooled

    As has been widely reported in the media today, an opinion piece in the British Journal of Sports Medicine seeks … Continue reading "Physical inactivity and obesity – don’t be fooled"


  • Income inequality: the facts

    Income inequality is usually measured by the Gini coefficient. The Gini goes from 0 to 100, with 0 representing total … Continue reading "Income inequality: the facts"


  • The opportunity cost of explaining opportunity costs

    It is around about this time in the electoral cycle that free market economists and libertarians start talking about their … Continue reading "The opportunity cost of explaining opportunity costs"


  • Fact check: Income and wealth inequality in Britain

    Barack Obama is said to have described inequality as the ‘defining challenge of our time’ and Ed Miliband has made … Continue reading "Fact check: Income and wealth inequality in Britain"


  • Soda taxes don’t work

    More evidence that taxes on sugary drinks are just glorified stealth taxes comes from the economist Marc L. Bellemare who … Continue reading "Soda taxes don’t work"


  • Tobacco sales in Australia since plain packaging

    The Guardian reports today that ‘Australians are ditching cigarettes at record levels’ and says that the Australian Labour party ‘attributes … Continue reading "Tobacco sales in Australia since plain packaging"


  • Free speech vs. paid speech

    There has been opposition from some charity representatives and MPs to the new clause in Department for Communities and Local … Continue reading "Free speech vs. paid speech"


  • Sock puppets: a step in the right direction

    As Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles has long taken a principled stand against what he … Continue reading "Sock puppets: a step in the right direction"


  • Sin taxes, public health and public opinion (part three)

    This is the second in a series of blog posts analysing the results of a ComRes opinion poll, commissioned by … Continue reading "Sin taxes, public health and public opinion (part three)"


  • Sin taxes, public health and public opinion (part two)

    This is the second in a series of blog posts analysing the results of a ComRes opinion poll, commissioned by … Continue reading "Sin taxes, public health and public opinion (part two)"


  • Sin taxes, public health and public opinion (part one)

    ComRes recently conducted an opinion poll on behalf of the IEA to gauge British attitudes towards several ‘public health’ policies. … Continue reading "Sin taxes, public health and public opinion (part one)"


  • The rich versus the super-rich

    Robert Peston, the BBC’s economics editor, has recently made his contribution to the rapidly growing genre of polemical inequality documentaries … Continue reading "The rich versus the super-rich"


  • The police should not be in the cocktail business

    Police in London have followed the lead of their counterparts in Norwich and Loughborough by forming a partnership with nightclub … Continue reading "The police should not be in the cocktail business"


  • Myths and straw men

    In my new IEA monograph Selfishness, Greed and Capitalism, I discuss some of the most common straw men and myths … Continue reading "Myths and straw men"


  • The war on drugs began 100 years ago today: Let’s hope it doesn’t last another century

    One hundred years ago today, President Woodrow Wilson approved the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, the US’s first national legislation designed … Continue reading "The war on drugs began 100 years ago today: Let’s hope it doesn’t last another century"


  • How not to lie with pub closure statistics

    My report about pub closures was generally well received when it was published yesterday, with the notable exception of the … Continue reading "How not to lie with pub closure statistics"


  • Who’s killing the British pub?

    The UK has lost 21,000 pubs since 1980, with half of these closures taking place since 2006. In Closing Time, … Continue reading "Who’s killing the British pub?"


  • Plain packaging – what happened next?

    In December 2012, the introduction of plain packaging gave the Australian government full control over the design and appearance of … Continue reading "Plain packaging – what happened next?"


  • Room at the top

    Few economic issues are discussed in the media with such gloom and inaccuracy as social mobility. There is a pervasive … Continue reading "Room at the top"


  • Healthy food is expensive – if you look at it in a certain way

    A few weeks ago I found myself being filmed in a New Zealand supermarket searching for a healthy meal for … Continue reading "Healthy food is expensive – if you look at it in a certain way"


  • Food and soft drink taxes: the whole story

    A study was published in PLoS One last year titled ‘Economic Instruments for Population Diet and Physical Activity Behaviour Change: … Continue reading "Food and soft drink taxes: the whole story"


  • ‘Advertising in a Free Society’ revisited

    The economist Julian Simon once wrote that ‘the economic study of advertising is not deserving of great attention’, ruefully adding … Continue reading "‘Advertising in a Free Society’ revisited"


  • The Establishment by Owen Jones: A review

    Owen Jones’ new book, The Establishment, promises to be more than your average left-wing polemic against austerity, banksters, globalisation and … Continue reading "The Establishment by Owen Jones: A review"


  • The Fat Lie – the real cause of the rise in obesity

    Obesity prevalence has increased sharply in Britain since the 1970s. Many public health campaigners portray Britain’s obesity ‘epidemic’ as being … Continue reading "The Fat Lie – the real cause of the rise in obesity"


  • IEA response to plain packaging consultation

    The Deaprtment of Health recently ran its second public consultation on plain (or ‘standardised’) packaging. This is my response on … Continue reading "IEA response to plain packaging consultation"


  • The Minimum Income Standard: the wisdom of crowds?

    Recently, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released an updated version of its Minimum Income Standard (MIS) which looks at what modern … Continue reading "The Minimum Income Standard: the wisdom of crowds?"


  • Why every e-cigarette user should be a free market libertarian

    The e-cigarette market in Britain has the closest thing to perfect competition that you will see in the real world. … Continue reading "Why every e-cigarette user should be a free market libertarian"


  • Where does the state end and civil society begin?

    A group of charities and campaign groups have written a letter to The Times complaining about what they regard as … Continue reading "Where does the state end and civil society begin?"


  • It’s not a cost-benefit analysis without the benefits

    The US Food and Drug Administration is considering making a calculation of the pleasure that people get from using e-cigarettes … Continue reading "It’s not a cost-benefit analysis without the benefits"


  • Punishing the drinking majority

    Alcohol policy in Britain and many other countries aims to reduce per capita alcohol consumption in the belief that this … Continue reading "Punishing the drinking majority"


  • Britain, more sober than you thought

    The Economist has put a nice little chart together based on the latest World Health Organisation report on alcohol. It … Continue reading "Britain, more sober than you thought"


  • New data show no rise in problem gambling since 1999

    Much of the moral panic about gambling in recent years has centred on the claim that the number of problem … Continue reading "New data show no rise in problem gambling since 1999"


  • Plain packaging review must look at all the evidence

    The latest installment of the plain packaging saga is expected to arrive before the end of the month. After the … Continue reading "Plain packaging review must look at all the evidence"


  • The Spirit Level and the imaginary £39 billion (part 1)

    On Sunday, the Observer reported that ‘Inequality costs Britain £39bn a year’. This is based on the belief that ‘a … Continue reading "The Spirit Level and the imaginary £39 billion (part 1)"


  • Budget reaction: drinking, gambling and smoking

    Today’s budget was another curate’s egg from the perspective of lifestyle liberty. The decision to scrap the alcohol duty escalator … Continue reading "Budget reaction: drinking, gambling and smoking"


  • The Spirit Level and the imaginary £39 billion (part 2)

    The authors of the report that claims that inequality costs the UK £39 billion a year (see yesterday’s post) say … Continue reading "The Spirit Level and the imaginary £39 billion (part 2)"


  • The Spirit Level and the imaginary £39 billion (part 1)

    On Sunday, the Observer reported that ‘Inequality “costs Britain £39bn a year’. This is based on the belief that ‘a … Continue reading "The Spirit Level and the imaginary £39 billion (part 1)"


  • Resist temptation: a sugar tax won’t make us healthy

    The recent suggestion by the chief medical officer Sally Davies that ‘we may need to introduce a sugar tax’ is … Continue reading "Resist temptation: a sugar tax won’t make us healthy"


  • Fact checking the Alcohol Health Alliance

    As reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, the Alcohol Health Alliance has issued a press release in response to the … Continue reading "Fact checking the Alcohol Health Alliance"


  • Minimum alcohol pricing: a response to the British Medical Journal

    The following letter has been written in response to ‘Under the influence’, an article by Jonathan Gornall which appeared in … Continue reading "Minimum alcohol pricing: a response to the British Medical Journal"


  • The perils and pitfalls of sin taxes

    The French think tank Institut économique Molinari has recently published a clear and well-referenced report that looks at the false … Continue reading "The perils and pitfalls of sin taxes"


  • What can be done about state-funded activism?

    In June 2012, the IEA published Sock Puppets, a report which looked at the evidence, and implications, of taxpayer funding … Continue reading "What can be done about state-funded activism?"


  • Rushing to judgement on the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’

    Ed Miliband’s pledge to crack down on the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ is a significant moment in the extraordinary moral panic … Continue reading "Rushing to judgement on the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’"


  • To properly tackle poverty, we must look at the cost of living

    First, the good news. Poverty has been on the decline for several years. Since 2007, the proportion of the British … Continue reading "To properly tackle poverty, we must look at the cost of living"


  • The consumption taxes that keep people poor

    The poorest twenty per cent of households in Britain spend an average of £1,286 per year on ‘sin taxes’, including … Continue reading "The consumption taxes that keep people poor"


  • No evidence of a rise in problem gambling in Scotland

    Estimates of rates of problem gambling in Britain primarily come from three British Gambling Prevalence Surveys published by the Gambling … Continue reading "No evidence of a rise in problem gambling in Scotland"


  • Drinking, heavy drinking and total consumption

    Many ‘public health’ policies aimed at reducing harmful alcohol use, such as minimum pricing, are underpinned by a belief in … Continue reading "Drinking, heavy drinking and total consumption"


  • The Bluff of Evidence-Based Policy

    Jamie Whyte’s superb new book Quack Policy, published by the IEA last week, has provoked some controversy on Twitter. The publication … Continue reading "The Bluff of Evidence-Based Policy"


  • The bluff of ‘evidence-based policy’

    Jamie Whyte’s superb new book Quack Policy, published by the IEA this week, casts a sceptical eye over recent examples … Continue reading "The bluff of ‘evidence-based policy’"


  • The folly of the lobbying register

    A register of lobbyists would be an expensive bureaucratic folly that would serve no useful purpose. There may be a … Continue reading "The folly of the lobbying register"


  • Smoking breaks and lost productivity

    In 2010, a piece of research was published by Policy Exchange, a think tank, which managed to lodge one “fact” … Continue reading "Smoking breaks and lost productivity"


  • Goodbye plain packaging, or is it au revoir?

    So it’s official. Neither the UK government nor the European Parliament will be legislating to put tobacco in plain packaging. … Continue reading "Goodbye plain packaging, or is it au revoir?"


  • Free market solutions in health should be allowed to flourish

    Are free markets incompatible with good health? To hear some of the rhetoric that comes from the medical establishment, you … Continue reading "Free market solutions in health should be allowed to flourish"


  • The Spirit Level – how does it measure up where it matters?

    Earlier this year, the Work Foundation published a study of inequality in Britain that threw up some uncomfortable findings for … Continue reading "The Spirit Level – how does it measure up where it matters?"


  • Alcohol Concern sticks to the ideology

    It is brave for a lobby group that has a long track record of using dodgy surveys, junk science and … Continue reading "Alcohol Concern sticks to the ideology"


  • Ireland, plain packaging and cognitive dissonance

    Plain packaging for tobacco appears to have been rejected by the UK’s Coalition government, just as it was rejected by … Continue reading "Ireland, plain packaging and cognitive dissonance"


  • Denmark’s fat tax disaster – the proof of the pudding

    The negative consequences of putting ‘sin taxes’ on products when demand is inelastic are well known. Almost invariably, they hurt … Continue reading "Denmark’s fat tax disaster – the proof of the pudding"


  • E-cigarettes and the gateway hypothesis

    This morning I was on the radio discussing electronic cigarettes in response to a headteacher banning their use at Blatchington … Continue reading "E-cigarettes and the gateway hypothesis"


  • The crack cocaine of gambling?

    More than fifty years have passed since bookmakers and casinos were legalised in Britain, but gambling remains at least partially … Continue reading "The crack cocaine of gambling?"


  • Lifestyle Economics

    The IEA’s Lifestyle Economics programme focuses on the regulation of controversial products and activities. In this short essay Christopher Snowdon … Continue reading "Lifestyle Economics"



  • A total ban on alcohol advertising – the next logical step?

    An editorial published in the British Medical Journal today calls for ‘a complete ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship’. The authors … Continue reading "A total ban on alcohol advertising – the next logical step?"


  • Thirsty for money

    We are used to single issue campaigners flagging up costs to the health service as a justification for raising taxes … Continue reading "Thirsty for money"


  • The myth of sock puppet independence

    In The Guardian this week, Zoe Williams laments the charity sector’s failure to speak out against government policy. She attributes … Continue reading "The myth of sock puppet independence"


  • The anti-smoking smash and grab

    A curious little idea was reported by the BBC and the Telegraph this week, when two academics from Bath University … Continue reading "The anti-smoking smash and grab"


  • Less affordable alcohol will push drinkers towards the black market

    Are the British developing a taste for smuggled booze and moonshine? There was a five-fold increase in the number of … Continue reading "Less affordable alcohol will push drinkers towards the black market"


  • A new approach to state-funded pressure groups

    The question of whether the government should be funding pressure groups is one that faces politicians across the developed world. … Continue reading "A new approach to state-funded pressure groups"


  • State funding should be withdrawn from all political activists

    The pressure group Hope Not Hate is celebrating the news that the British National Party will be denied €100,000 of … Continue reading "State funding should be withdrawn from all political activists"


  • The Government ought to rouse our sleeping casinos

    They say that laws are like sausages, it is better not to see how they are made. If so, the … Continue reading "The Government ought to rouse our sleeping casinos"


  • ONS releases first results of happiness survey

    The early findings of the Office for National Statistics’ much-discussed survey of national well-being have confirmed what anybody who is familiar … Continue reading "ONS releases first results of happiness survey"


  • The gap between rich and poor

    This week, the OECD issued a press release headlined ‘Governments must tackle record gap between rich and poor’. The report … Continue reading "The gap between rich and poor"


  • Ed Miliband’s equality delusion

    He didn’t mention the book by name. He didn’t need to. When Ed Miliband used his first speech as Labour … Continue reading "Ed Miliband’s equality delusion"