Tax and Fiscal Policy

UK is third worst country in the EU for nanny state interference


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A league table of nanny state regulation puts Britain at the number three spot as the most meddling country in the EU, just behind Finland and Sweden.

The 2016 Nanny State Index, published today by the Institute of Economic Affairs and the European Policy Information Centre (EPICENTER), gives every EU country a score out of 100 according to how it regulates private lifestyle choices.

Excessive regulation and punitive ‘sin taxes’ have resulted in the UK sitting third in the league table. Ireland takes the fourth spot. The Czech Republic gets the lowest score, making it officially the most liberal country in the EU.

Finland is the EU’s number one nanny state thanks to its taxes on chocolate, soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco. Finland also has an outright ban on e-cigarettes, a ban on happy hours and heavy restrictions on advertising.

The UK has the highest rates of tax on wine and cigarettes in the EU. Its beer duty is second only to Finland and its smoking ban is more draconian than any other member state. In total, it ranks 1st for tobacco, 4th for alcohol and 7th for food and soft drinks. Britain takes a more liberal approach to e-cigarettes, however, giving it a final ranking of 3rd.

Although paternalistic laws are often said to be justified on health grounds, analysis of the figures found no link between nanny state regulation and longer life expectancy. Countries with heavy regulation of alcohol do not have lower rates of drinking, and countries with heavy regulation of tobacco do not have lower rates of smoking.

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

“Britain is the third worst country in the EU for lifestyle freedoms. Only Finland and Sweden are worse places to be a drinker and nowhere is worse to be a smoker. The UK’s only saving grace is its liberal approach to e-cigarettes but all in all the results make depressing reading for those of us who want the government to keep out of our private lives. Unless you are a teetotal, non-smoking vegetarian, my advice is to go to Germany or the Czech Republic this summer.”

Notes to Editors:

To arrange an interview, please contact Stephanie Lis, Director of Communications: [email protected] or 07766 221 268.The Nanny State Index is the first comprehensive evaluation of paternalistic lifestyle regulation in Europe. Using 32 criteria related to food, soft drinks, alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes, it identifies the best and worst countries to eat, drink, smoke and vape. It is a pan-European project co-ordinated by the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER) and edited by Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Full details of the Index will be live from 00.01 on Thursday 31st March at www.nannystateindex.org

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.





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