Government interference in their citizens’ everyday lives has taken a stark turn for the worse, according to a new report.
An analysis on the “nanny state” tendencies of European governments has show that piles of new laws, taxes and regulations are being used to control the ordinary people’s lifestyles.
Bans on adverts for “bad” products, price hikes, aggressive moves to demonize smoking and a clampdown on alcohol are among the trends on the rise.
The situation is laid bare in the Nanny State Index, an annual publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs in London.
Finland is the least liberal country in Europe when it comes to eating, drinking, smoking and vaping – and the UK isn't too far behind! pic.twitter.com/HnbGzBU8aE
— IEA (@iealondon) May 10, 2017
It labelled the UK government as a particularly prolific offender, placing it higher in the rankings than ever before, in second place.
Finland was the most controlling government of all, it found, with Ireland, France and Sweden also in the top six.
The report highlighted all manner of strange, petty and intrusive laws enforced by European governments to try to deter citizens from consuming legal products.
These included a ban on TV adverts for toys in Sweden – because they are aimed at children.
Meanwhile the Finnish government maintains a total state monopoly on the sale of alcohol, while other Scandinavian governments also tightly control anything stronger than wine.
Ads for booze are completely banned in Austria, and in France, free soda refills in restaurants are forbidden because they are deemed to unhealthy.
The UK government has been particularly keen to ban and regulate things in the last year. Duties on wine rose to 55% of the sale price – by far the highest in Europe – whilst mandatory plain packaging was introduced on all tobacco products earlier this year.
There have been proposals for both a “sugar tax” and minimum pricing on alcohol. The UK also has the second-highest taxes on beer in Europe.
Earlier this week, the opposition Labour party announced plans to ban adverts for “junk food” on TV before 9PM in case they were seen by children.
The report’s author, Chris Snowdon, wrote that once, “a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state. The same can surely not be said about Britain in 2017.”
France, too, has introduced plain packs for tobacco products, a move that was decried by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who claimed it would lead to “fundamentalists” calling for “neutral bottles of wine and neutral cheese”, and would be “the end of our land”.
The US has not been left untouched by European style state intervention either.
Last month New York mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans, based on UK and European-style tax hikes, to further increase the price of cigarettes in the city to deter people from smoking.