The UK is the second least free country in the European Union, according to the latest Nanny State Index rankings from the European Policy Information Centre.
This septic isle is only surpassed by Finland when it comes to bans, restrictions and taxes on everyday relaxation activities. The UK scores 37.4 out of a maximum of 100, where a higher score means a country is less free.
At the opposite end of the scale are the Czech Republic and Germany, lowest and second lowest with scores of 11.5 and 15.9 respectively.
The Epicenter study ranks the worst nations in the EU for eating, drinking, smoking and vaping, measured by a proprietary index ranking the restrictiveness of laws in each country.
"The UK has some particularly punitive sin taxes. It has the highest taxes on cigarettes and wine in the EU and the second highest taxes on beer," note the study's authors. "Britain's Nanny State Index score for food and soft drinks arguably makes the country seem more liberal than it is because it does not include the food reformulation scheme which has led to chocolate bars shrinking and food products becoming less tasty as Public Health England pushes food manufacturers towards reducing sugar, salt and fat content."
In contrast, they paint a wistful picture of the Czech Republic: "There are no national restrictions on when bars and restaurants can stop serving alcohol. E-cigarettes can be advertised, sold and used indoors. Alcohol advertising is largely unrestricted except in some outdoor areas (e.g. outside schools) and taxes are low."
Christopher Snowdon, editor of the study, commented: "Paternalistic lifestyle policies create a number of problems and costs. 'Sin taxes' fall most heavily on the poor. High prices fuel the black market. Advertising bans restrict competition and stifle innovation. Smoking bans damage pubs and clubs. Excessive regulation creates excessive bureaucracy and drains police resources." Snowdon is also head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs and has written extensively on the problems with puritanical laws punishing those who enjoy a drink or a smoke.
The Nanny State Index 2017 can be viewed here, and its authors rather pragmatically note: "If you want to use the Nanny State Index as a travel guide, there are separate league tables for food, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, so you can pick your holiday according to your preferences." ®