The 2021 edition of the Nanny State Index, which has been expanded to 30 countries in Europe, shows that Germany has taken the top spot as the freest country.
A new addition to the Index, Norway, is currently the least free country in Europe when it comes to sin taxes and regulation of alcohol, tobacco, food, and vaping. Lithuania and Finland have taken the second and third place respectively in this year’s Index.
The Nanny State Index has been tracking lifestyle regulation across the EU since 2016. The latest edition of the Index has seen an increasing trend of taxation on sugary drinks, with twelve countries now having such taxes, up from five in 2017. More taxes have been levied on e-cigarette fluids, going from eleven countries in 2019 to thirteen in 2021. Meanwhile, seventeen of the thirty countries in the index have made it illegal to use an e-cigarette wherever smoking is prohibited, and sixteen countries have a total or near-total ban on e-cigarette advertising.
Relative to average incomes, the highest taxes on alcohol are in Lithuania, Norway, and Finland. Taxes on e-cigarettes are highest in Portugal and e-cigarette sales are banned entirely in Norway. The UK, Romania, and Ireland have the highest taxes on tobacco.
Overall, Hungary remains the worst country for taxation on food and soft drinks. The UK, followed closely by Romania, are the worst countries for tobacco smokers. Lithuania is the worst country for consumers of alcoholic drinks. Norway and Estonia are the worst places to be an e-cigarette user.
Poland currently has the highest soda tax when adjusted for income. Alcohol advertising restrictions are the worst in Iceland, while the UK has the most draconian smoking ban.
Despite the ever-growing spread of paternalistic lifestyle regulations, there is little evidence that such policies are effective. The report finds no correlation between stricter regulations on drinking, eating, smoking, and vaping on life expectancy. Smoking and drinking rates do not correlate with scores on the Nanny State Index. However, there is a strong correlation between high GDP per capita and longer life expectancy. Instead of micro-regulating consumer behaviour, policy makers should focus on economic growth and prosperity to achieve their stated aim of improving the health of their citizens
Commenting on the findings, editor of the Nanny State Index, Christopher Snowdon said: “Despite COVID-19 presenting Europe with a genuine public health crisis, politicians have still found the time to interfere in the private life of individuals. From taxing soft drinks to banning e-cigarette flavours, no regulation has been too petty for the nanny state bureaucrats.
Most countries in the Nanny State Index have become less liberal since 2019. Many of them have proposed a range of new bans, taxes, and restrictions that will make things even worse in the years to come. It is time to bring this failed experiment to a halt.
As the world slowly returns to normal, it is essential that all liberties that were suspended to deal with the pandemic are restored. But we should demand more. We should demand a wider revival of freedom and an end to government paternalism.”
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