Germany named "best place" in the EU to eat, drink and smoke

Germany named "best place" in the EU to eat, drink and smoke

According to the so-called “Nanny State Index” of 2019, residents of Germany face the least restrictions when it comes to eating, drinking and smoking, compared with other EU countries. The think tank deems this worthy of praise, but health experts have their concerns.

The 2019 Nanny State Index

Since March 2016, the Nanny State Index has been ranking the European Union’s 28 member states according to how easy they make it to eat, drink, smoke and vape. The ranking considers the extent to which the government in any given country attempts to deter consumption of legal products, for instance by restricting trading hours and advertisements, levying taxes or imposing outright bans.

From the point of view of the authors of the study, these kinds of paternalistic policies are not an expression of state welfare but questionable and counterproductive measures that negatively impact quality of life. There is little evidence, they argue, that countries that impose such restrictive policies enjoy greater health or longevity. There is, for example, no correlation between greater tobacco control and lower smoking rates.

Germany crowned Nanny State king

Perhaps surprisingly for a country generally regarded as overly-fond of rules and restrictions, Germany came out on top in the 2019 ranking. The report praised the federal republic, writing that “Germany is the best place to drink, smoke, vape and eat in the EU.” They singled out the lack of a sugar tax on German food as particularly worthy of praise and noted that taxes on German beer and spirits are well below the EU average.

Germany was joined in the top 5 “freest” countries by the Czech Republic (2nd), Slovakia and Austria (joint 3rd place), Luxembourg (4th) and Spain and Italy (joint 5th place). At the other end of the scale, the countries with the most restrictions were found to be Finland, Lithuania, Estonia, the UK and Hungary.

Nanny State Index criticised by German health experts

However, since being released the Nanny State Index has encountered some strong criticism in the German media for its purported promotion of unhealthy lifestyles. Luise Molling, of the Foodwatch FAZ organisation, argued that it was “absurd” to view “any health policy as paternalism and an interference in individual freedom.”

Opposition also came from leading figures in German health insurance: “It is completely uncontroversial for governments to promote the health of the population by laws,” said Kai Kolpatzik of the AOK-Bundesverband. He argued that Germany was lagging well behind developed nations on this front.

Full Nanny State Index Ranking 2019

The full ranking was as follows. Note that a higher score was given to countries with more protectionist policies, meaning that the top-ranked countries are those deemed the “least free."

  • 1. Finland
  • 2. Lithuania
  • 3. Estonia
  • 4. UK
  • 5. Hungary
  • 6. Ireland
  • 7. Latvia
  • 8. Sweden
  • 9. Slovenia
  • 10. France
  • 11. Greece
  • 12. Poland
  • 13. Cyprus
  • 14. Portugal
  • 15. Croatia
  • 16. Belgium
  • 17. Romania
  • 18. Bulgaria
  • 19. Malta
  • 20. Denmark
  • 21. Netherlands
  • 23. = Italy
  • 23. = Spain
  • 24. Luxembourg
  • 26. = Austria
  • 26. = Slovakia
  • 27. Czech Republic
  • 28. Germany

You can read the full report, and more details on how the ranking is calculated, on the Nanny State Index website.



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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