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« Do nanny state initiatives actually work? | Main | Tobacco Free Futures to re-brand as Healthier Futures »

The Nanny State Index

Today sees the launch of an idea so brilliantly simple and media friendly I wish I had thought of it.

The Nanny State Index is described as "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."

Published by the Institute of Economic Affairs and the European Policy Information Centre (Epicenter), the Index gives every EU country a score out of 100 according to how it regulates private lifestyle choices.

From a UK perspective the key findings are:

Excessive regulation and punitive 'sin taxes' have resulted in the UK sitting third in the league table [behind Finland and Sweden]. 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.

Fingers crossed the Index will get the publicity it deserves. Newspapers love league tables but I hope editor Chris Snowdon's comment gets some prominence too because the final sentence in particular is a gem.

"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."

Click here for the IEA press release. Full details of the 2016 Nanny State Index can be found here.

Should the Nanny State Index ever go global it will be interesting to see how the UK rates in relation to countries outside the EU.

I imagine we'd still be near the top, which is pretty depressing for a so-called 'liberal' democracy.

Anyway, by coincidence, I have just received an email from a friend who wrote:

"I thought of you on my travels in Hong Kong and Tokyo last month where all and sundry were puffing away like chimneys in bars, hotels, restaurants ... God, it was awful."

There, in that single sentence, are two more destinations you might like to visit.

Update: Media coverage includes reports in the TelegraphExpress and City AM. The Irish media has also picked up on it – see the Irish Independent and Irish Examiner.

Writing for City AM, Snowdon adds:

The Nanny State Index has been six months in the making and has only been possible thanks to the efforts of a network of think tanks across Europe who have helped to track down and verify the data. Our intention is to provide annual updates so that we can track the growth - or, if hell freezes over – the decline of paternalistic legislation in the EU.

Now there's a thought.

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Reader Comments (4)

Shouldn't it be the 'bully state' index?

Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 9:44 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Just shows what power these Puritans and health control freaks
have wielded totally undemocratically aided and abetted by very weak politicians. It is time ASH et al had all state funding withdrawn.

Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 18:46 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Goodacre

The Index is a sort of chart. The progression is from 'kindly nanny' to 'vicious bully'. The Chech Republic is 'kindly nanny' and Finland is 'vicious bully'. I went to Prague a couple of years ago. The desolation created by the communist regime was still much in evidence - fine buildings in serious disrepair. But the atmosphere regarding pleasurable activities was relaxed.
How sad is is it that such an atmosphere has been destroyed in our own pubs etc by ignorant, malleable, MP apparatchiks?

The best plan is to not engage. Engaging empowers them. Or rather, if you must engage, ensure that you engage on your terms.

I remember listening to a broadcast on the radio some time ago. The Tobacco Control woman said that we must protect OUR children. The Caller said: "WHOSE children?", and repeated it. The Tobacco Controller became hysterical, in effect, demanding that the children of parents A should belong to the State.
OK. If that is the reality, then the State should change nappies and do the feeding, bathing, clothing, etc.

The Index shows which States are vicious bullies and which are kindly nannies. Sadly, Cameron et al are revealed to be vicious bullies.

Friday, April 1, 2016 at 3:07 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Too true. Cameron and et all are vicious bullies.

There is only democracy in this country for those that fit in. Successive governments have silenced everyone else via government lobbying governments.

Hey howe - jobs for the pen-pushers as always to continue the discrimination against legal citizens.

Friday, April 1, 2016 at 23:50 | Unregistered CommenterHelen D

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