Lifestyle Economics

Britain’s nanny state continues to expand, finds new international ranking


In the Media

Julian Jessop quoted in The Express


Julian Jessop quoted in The Daily Mail

The UK is among the most authoritarian countries in Europe for food and soft drink, tobacco, and alcohol regulation

  • The UK has the most restrictive tobacco regulation in Europe and the second most restrictive food and drink rules;

  • The UK ranks in the middle of the pack, at 13th, for alcohol restrictions, but has among the highest alcohol taxes;

  • The UK and Ireland have the most liberal policies on e-cigarettes;

  • Overall, the UK is the 11th worst country out of 30 for lifestyle restrictions, up one spot since the last ranking in 2021;

  • Turkey is the worst place to eat, drink, smoke and vape in Europe. Germany is the best.

An international league table of nanny state regulations finds that the UK government is becoming more meddlesome in people’s lifestyles.

The 2023 Nanny State Index, published today by the Institute of Economic Affairs and the European Policy Information Centre (EPICENTER), gives each European country a score out of 100 according to how it regulates private lifestyle choices.

The UK is ranked the worst country in Europe to be a smoker due to its high sin taxes, plain packaging and smoking ban. Britain also has the second most restrictive food and drink policies including a tax on sugary drinks and food marketing restrictions. Brits also face among the highest alcohol taxes in Europe while Scotland has minimum alcohol pricing and bans on off-trade alcohol discounts.

Overall, Turkey takes the top spot in the ranking, followed by Norway and Lithuania in second and third respectively. Germany gets the lowest score, making it the most liberal country in Europe, followed by Czechia and Italy.


Today’s ranking comes as the Conservative government and Labour opposition are planning further nanny state measures including banning “buy 2, get 1 free” offers, extending restrictions on food advertising and expanding the sugar tax. The author Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA, predicts that “things will only get worse” with more nanny state regulations on the way.

The UK’s overall rating is significantly improved by a “common-sense approach” to e-cigarettes. Britain has among the least restrictive controls over e-cigarettes in Europe. Furthermore, the UK’s alcohol duties have fallen in real terms after being frozen for several years although that is set to change with a large tax hike in August.

Despite rapid growth in regulations, there is little evidence that paternalistic policies are effective. The report finds no correlation between stricter drinking, eating, smoking, and vaping regulations and higher life expectancy:

Christopher Snowdon, report author and Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“With the UK introducing some of the world’s most nannying policies on food, it’s no surprise to see it rising up the league table against stiff competition. The UK scores poorly in every category except e-cigarettes where it is the best in show. Scotland and Wales drag down the overall score by having minimum pricing for alcohol, and the UK as a whole is the worst place in Europe to be a smoker. With alcohol taxes rising sharply this year and more food regulation to come, things will only get worse.”


Notes to Editors

CONTACT: [email protected] / 07763 365520

The Nanny State Index 2023 is available here:

Full details of the Index  can be found at

This paper received coverage in The Telegraph, The Times, The Spectator, The Critic, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, Guido Fawkes, and Politico.

The main conclusions of the report include:

  • The number of countries that now place sin taxes on sugary drinks has risen from five in 2017 to twelve in 2023 and in most countries, taxes on sugary drinks also include artificially sweetened beverages.

  • Fifteen of the countries have a tax on e-cigarette fluid, up from eight in 2017.

  • The Nanny State Index (NSI) is a league table of the best and worst European countries to eat, drink, smoke and vape, using a points system to rank 30 countries on four categories (food & soft drinks, alcohol, e-cigarettes, tobacco).

  • The Index was launched by EPICENTER in March 2016 and is edited by the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Head of Lifestyle Economics, Christopher Snowdon.


EPICENTER, the European Policy Information Center, is an independent initiative of ten leading think tanks from across Europe. It seeks to inform the European policy debate and promote the principles of a free society by bringing together the expertise of its members.

EPICENTER is formed by the Center for Political Studies (Denmark), Civil Development Forum (Poland), the Institut Economique Molinari (France), the Institute of Economic Affairs (UK), the Institute of Economic and Social Studies (Slovakia), Instituto Bruno Leoni (Italy), KEFiM (Greece), the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, Prometheus (Germany), and Timbro (Sweden). Like its members, EPICENTER is politically independent and does not accept taxpayer funding.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.