Why the UK Is Officially the Worst Place to Smoke or Drink Wine

Turns out, between regulation and taxes, it's actually a real ball-ache to get pissed in Britain.
April 1, 2016, 2:52pm

A thing of the past if the ruddy nanny state has its way! (Photo via Will Keightley)

More "turns out the UK is really quite miserable and/or shit" news today: a new report has found that Britain ranks as the third most meddlesome country when it comes to controlling and regulating the private lives of its citizens, just behind those killjoys Finland and Sweden.

To rub more salt in the wound, we are also the worst place in the EU to be a smoker or wine-drinker due to various taxes and regulation, which, as you don't need reminding – seeing as you are currently chuffing on four cigarettes at once and sipping your afternoon wine – are two of our most sacred, holy traditions. Take our wine and our tabs, and what is left? The only thing left to tax will be "going really red in the sun on a package holiday to Majorca" and "football chants where Germans are referred to as 'the Bosch'".


In a 2016 report, helpfully – and in a completely unbiased way – entitled "The Nanny State Index", the UK comes out among the worst offenders in regulating its citizens' private lives, which is bad news for anyone who wants to smoke and get trashed without the government sticking its nose in. According to Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the best way to save money this summer is by taking a "what happens in Czechoslovakia, stays in Czechoslovakia" approach to smoking and drinking. "Unless you are a teetotal, non-smoking vegetarian, my advice is to go to Germany or the Czech Republic this summer," he said.

The report ranked all 28 EU countries on their methods of controlling our sinful behaviours – like smoking, drinking, vaping and that most unforgivable of acts, eating – and took into account taxation, ingredient limits, opening and closing times, restrictions on advertising, drink driving limits and similar regulations imposed by the member states. So-called "paternalistic laws" are often deemed justifiable on health grounds, but the report actually concluded that countries with heavy regulation surrounding alcohol and tobacco don't have lower rates of drinking or smoking. Turns out being told off for drinking too much by a pamphlet in a doctor's office can't stop you from having a heart attack one day if you really wanted to.


"The big picture is that there is no correlation between nanny state regulation and higher life expectancy," the report said.

The worst offender, Finland, was top of the list due to its taxation of confectionary, tobacco and alcohol. Alongside this, they have also banned e-cigs outright, banned happy hours and imposed some pretty heavy restrictions on advertising for these things. Finland sounds, with respect, quite shit.

But before we saddle up our limp but slightly high-horse, let's remember that the publication showed the UK as the most "draconian" in terms of its smoking ban, as well as taxing the hell out of wine and cigarettes. The UK also comes second only to Finland on beer duty, and spirits duty is higher than most other EU member states. That dream of a bottomless Playboy-logo vodka luge at your next staff party is slowly ebbing away.

Overall, Britain comes top for its regulation of tobacco, fourth for alcohol and seventh for food and fizzy drinks. However, lighter regulation of our last bastion of hope – the e-cigarette – means that the UK sits at an overall ranking of third.

The Czech Republic ranked at the bottom – a nation with no wine duty at all, and no limits on alcohol serving hours for bars and shops – followed by Germany and Luxembourg. So that's settled, then: when the robot police kick to dust the last remaining pub in England for flouting some sort of laser-guided futuro drinking ban in circa three to five years, see you in Luxembourg for the last great piss up of Planet Earth. Happy weekend.