The new edition of the Nanny State Indexwhich since 2016 measures the degree of paternalism in the regulation of lifestyles of the citizens of each country, paying attention to the restrictions, regulations and taxes on sugary drinks, alcohol, tobacco and electronic cigarette.
The index, prepared since 2016 by the European Policy Information Center (Epicenter) and the British Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), has the participation, on the Spanish side, of the Fundación para el Avance de la Libertad, based in Madrid. The main conclusion is that governments have expanded the scope and volume of restrictions on individual consumer choice. There are only a few isolated examples of reversal of nanny state policies, such as Norway’s repeal of its tax on sugary drinks, but the general trend across Europe is towards more regulation and government intervention. Thus, for example, the number of European countries that impose special tributes to sugary drinks has gone from five (2017) to twelve (2023)being Hungary the most aggressive State in this field. As for alcohol, Ireland and the UK they have introduced new barriers to their purchase, and Lithuania has raised the legal age of purchase. On the other hand, fifteen European countries have raised their taxes on vaping liquidsand two (Norway and Turkey) have banned these liquids from containing nicotine.
Spain is the fourth European country in freedom of consumption of these substances
Despite this trend toward hyperregulation, these “nanny state” policies lack health outcomes. The report finds no correlation between stricter regulations on the consumption of alcohol, food, tobacco or vaporizers and life expectancy. “Instead of micro-regulating consumer behaviour, policy makers should focus on economic growth and prosperity to improve the health of its citizenss”, collects the report in its conclusions.
Germany has once again occupied first place as the country with the least state paternalism in Europe, with the least number of restrictive rules. The Czech Republic and Italy rank second and third in terms of liberal attitudes towards the lifestyle of its citizens. Turkey, a new addition to the Index, is currently the least free country in Europe when it comes to banning, taxing and regulating the consumption of food and soft drinks, alcohol, tobacco and e-cigarettes. Norway and Lithuania rank second and third worst in this year’s Index.
Spain is (tied with Luxembourg) the fourth best positioned country in the index.
Christopher Snowdon, director of the Nanny State Index and Head of the area of Lifestyle Regulation at the Institute of Economic Affairs (London) has pointed out that “although Spain is one of the freest countries in the index, there is no room for complacency. Advocates of the “nanny state” are always pushing for the upper hand new restrictions on social freedoms, and Spain still has a long way to go. Alcohol taxes aren’t too bad compared to the EU, but restrictions on alcohol advertisingThey are excessive”.