Nanny State Index 2019


This report from the UK think tank EPICENTER examines paternalistic regulations throughout Europe.

Germany has overtaken the Czech Republic to become the EU’s most liberal country, according to the 2019 edition of the Nanny State Index. Finland remains the least free member state when it comes to drinking, smoking, vaping and food regulation, with Lithuania and Estonia in second and third place respectively. Relative to average incomes, the highest taxes on alcohol are in Finland and Sweden. Ireland and the UK have the highest taxes on soft drinks. Sweden has the highest tax on e-cigarette fluid. The UK and France have the most punitive tobacco taxes. Overall, Hungary is the worst country for excessive regulation of food and e-cigarettes. Finland is the worst country to be a drinker and the UK is the worst country to be a smoker.

The index shows that there has been some liberalisation of e-cigarette regulation since 2016, but that vaping bans have continued to spread. Twenty EU member states now have some legal restrictions on e-cigarette use, including fourteen in which vapers face the same restrictions as smokers. The biggest movers are Lithuania and Estonia which have surged up the table since 2017 as the result of some heavy temperance legislation. Lithuania brought in a total ban on alcohol advertising and raised the age at which alcohol can be purchased (to twenty) in January 2018. Both policies are a first for an EU member state. Estonia sharply increased the tax rate on beer and wine between 2016 and 2018, leading to predictable problems with cross-border trade which has caused the government to reconsider further tax hikes this year. The Index found only five examples of liberalisation in the last two years. They include the Italian government slashing the tax on e-cigarette fluid in January 2019 and Greece’s supreme administrative court declaring a tax on wine unlawful in September 2018.

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