Bulgaria is ranked 22nd out of 28 European Union countries in the first “Nanny State Index”, meaning it is among the freest in the bloc when it comes to eating, drinking, smoking and vaping.
In what is described as “the league table of the worst places in the EU to eat, drink, smoke and vape”, the Czech Republic ranked as freest and Finland as the least free.
The compilers of the Nanny State Index, the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER), said that paternalistic policies “typically reduce the individual’s quality of life in one or more of the following ways: raising prices prices (through taxation or retail monopolies), stigmatising consumers, restricting choice, inconveniencing consumers, limiting information (with advertising bans) and reducing product quality.
It said that Bulgaria’s tobacco advertising laws are somewhat more liberal than most other EU countries. Advertising is banned in certain locations, such as near schools, and adverts cannot the cigarettes themselves, only the brand logo, but it is permitted.
There is, however, a ban on cigarette vending machines and Bulgaria’s smoking ban is among the most severe in Europe with no exemptions in bars, restaurants or workplaces and some restrictions outdoors.
The smoking ban in Bulgaria is very poorly enforced in practice, however, and there are no such restrictions on vaping. E-cigarettes can be freely bought, sold and advertised, the compilers of the index said.
Tobacco taxes in Bulgaria are the fourth highest in the EU relative to income but there is no wine duty and taxes on beer and spirits are low by European standards.
The advertising of spirits is prohibited on Bulgarian TV and radio except in a heavily regulated form after 10pm. There are few restrictions on beer and wine advertising, the European Policy Information Center said.
The Nanny State Index ranked Finland as the least free, followed by Sweden in second place, then the UK. On the other end of the scale, after rating the Czech Republic as the freest, next were Germany and Luxembourg.
The compilers of the index said that “the Czech Republic’s reputation as a haven of liberty in the EU is confirmed by the Nanny State Index”.
There are no national restrictions in the Czech Republic 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 (eg. outside schools).
Per capita beer consumption is higher in the Czech Republic than anywhere in the world and its beer tax is among the lowest in the EU. Tax on spirits is relatively low and there is no wine duty at all.
Tobacco taxes are also among the lowest in the EU. Cigarettes can be displayed in shops and bought from vending machines. In bars and restaurants it is left to the owner to decide whether to permit smoking and e-cigarettes can be advertised, purchased and used anywhere.
But “with high scores on every criteria, Finland is the EU’s number one nanny state in 2016”
Finland has a range of food and drink taxes, an effective ban on e-cigarette sales and extremely high taxes on beer, wine and spirits.
Finland is one of only a few countries worldwide to levy a special tax on confectionery, chocolate and ice cream although this is due to be rescinded in 2017. Its tax on fizzy drinks will remain in place.
Alcohol prohibition ended in Finland in 1932 but the government continues to regulate alcohol very heavily. Spirits advertising is banned in all forms and restrictions on beer and wine advertising are severe, with a ban before 10pm on television and a near total outdoor ban (sport and music events are exempt).
Finland has the EU’s highest beer tax, the second highest spirits tax, and the third highest wine duty. It is one of only two EU countries to have a state monopoly on alcohol sales, and discount promotions such as happy hours are banned outright.
Tobacco regulation in Finland is also heavy. In addition to a total ban on tobacco advertising there is a retail display ban and cigarettes cannot be sold from vending machines.
There are few exemptions from Finland’s smoking ban, which includes some outdoor areas, and the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes is effectively banned because they are treated as medical products. Discussions are underway about treating them as tobacco products. Those who can get hold of e-cigarettes can use them indoors.