Prague, Czech Republic – According to a recent study, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are two of the most liberal and freest nations in Europe… to smoke and drink.
Czech Republic and Slovakia among freest nations in Europe
According to the 2019 Nanny State Index, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are respectively the second and third freest countries in Europe when it comes to alcohol and tobacco consumption.
The Nanny State Index is an annual ranking that determines “the best and worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape” – in other words, it measures the regulations, levels of taxation and availability of four categories of products in every EU country: alcohol, tobacco, food & soft drinks and e-cigarettes.
“Whether it is food, drink, vaping or smoking, the lifestyle regulators have the wind in their sails” write the authors of the Nanny State Index, that slams the growing “paternalism” of EU countries and pushes for more liberal regulations all across Europe.
In the 2019 edition of the Nanny State Index, the Czech Republic is stripped of its status as the freest nation in Europe (it was ranked first in the two previous rankings), replaced by Germany that takes the top spot. Slovakia completes the podium, securing the same place as last year, followed by Austria and Luxembourg rounding up the top 5 of the most liberal countries in Europe to smoke and drink.
Czech Republic’s smoking ban in focus
So, what caused the Czech Republic’s demise? “The Czech Republic’s reputation as a haven of liberty took a knock in May 2017 when an extensive smoking ban came into effect”, according to the authors of the ranking, referring to the nation-wide ban on smoking inside bars, pubs and restaurants that was implemented two years ago.
But the Czech Republic, the world’s largest consumer of beer per capita, is still the freest country when it come to alcohol regulations, followed by Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Bulgaria. The Czech Republic also tops the ranking in the food & drink category (tied with seven other EU countries, including Slovakia, whose “approach to social freedoms is sounder than most, but […] far from perfect”, according to the index).
Despite the smoking ban, the Czech Republic ranks ninth regarding tobacco consumption regulations (Slovakia is seventh), including due to the fact that the country has the second-lowest taxes and duties on cigarettes in the EU (something that might soon change). And finally, it ranks fifth in the e-cigarette category.
Hungary among most restrictive countries in the EU
According to the 2019 ranking, the most restrictive countries in the EU are Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and the U.K. Hungary comes next as the fifth least free nation: “Under the authoritarian government of Viktor Orban, Hungary has introduced some of the most intrusive ‘public health’ policies on food, tobacco and e-cigarettes in Europe”, reads the study. Hungary ranks last in both the e-cigarettes and food & soft drinks category.
Despite moving up three spots compared to the previous ranking, Poland remains the 12th least free nation in the EU.