The Nanny State Index is a classification that lists the different countries of the European Union where to eat, drink, smoke tobacco and electronic cigarettes. It is coordinated by EPICENTER, a network of European liberal think tanks, and directed by Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), together with numerous institutional partners, among which Civismo stands out. In this edition of the Index, Germany has surpassed the Czech Republic as the most liberal country in the EU. Finland remains the least free and Lithuania and Estonia occupy the second and third positions, respectively.
This report shows a growing tax trend, as well as draconian regulation in most EU member states. Eleven countries have taxes on the liquid of electronic cigarettes, while only eight presented this tax in 2017. As for vaping, fourteen countries now include bans in this area, and fifteen have total bans on their advertising.
The highest taxes are in Finland and Sweden. Ireland and the United Kingdom have the highest taxes on sugary drinks and Sweden on the electronic cigarette liquid. The United Kingdom and France, meanwhile, have the most restrictive legislation on tobacco.
In general, Hungary is the worst country in terms of excessive regulation of food and electronic cigarettes, Finland is the worst country to drink, and the United Kingdom where to smoke. The Index shows that there has been some liberalisation in the regulation of electronic cigarettes since 2016, but that the prohibitions on its consumption continue to be extended. Thus, currently, twenty member states have some legal restriction on them, including fourteen where these restrictions are identical to those of tobacco consumption.
The main changes in this edition of the Nanny State Index have been Lithuania and Estonia, which have worsened their position in the table since 2017 as a result of strong legislation. Lithuania implemented a total ban on alcohol advertisements and raised the minimum age to consume it (up to twenty years) in January 2018, both measures being a declaration of intentions unprecedented in Europe. Estonia, on the other hand, increased the beer and wine tax between 2016 and 2018, causing numerous problems with the international exchange of goods that have led the government to reconsider similar policies this year.
The Index found only five examples of liberalisation in the last two years. Among others, the Italian tax reduction on the liquid of electronic cigarettes in January 2019 and the Greek administrative supreme court, which declared the wine tax in September 2018 illegal.
Finally, Spain is among the most liberal countries, the sixth of the 28, after advancing four places compared to the 2017 edition. It is tied with Italy, and only one tenth behind Luxembourg. Its good position is mainly due to low taxes on alcohol. Thus, it has the third lowest EU tax on beer, and the fifth lowest on spirits. In turn, like many other countries in southern Europe, there are no taxes on wine.
As for tobacco, smoking is prohibited at work since 2005, and in bars and restaurants since 2011. In addition, there are also some prohibitions in open places such as schools, hospitals and parks. It is also noteworthy that, in December 2016, the Spanish Government announced that it would tax sugary drinks to help reduce the national deficit, but later rejected this idea so as not to harm the working classes. However, Catalonia has had this tax since May 2017.