Excessive regulation and so-called "sin taxes" make Britain among the most meddling countries in the European Union, according to a new report out today from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).
The free market think tank published its annual "Nanny State Index" league table with the European Policy Information Centre, putting Britain in the number three spot behind Finland and Sweden.
The league table gives every EU country a score out of 100, based on to it regulates individuals' lifestyle choices, including food and drink consumption.
The IEA said the UK has the highest rates of tax on wine and cigarettes in the EU, with its relatively high beer duty second only to Finland. The think tank also labelled Britain's smoking ban "more draconian than any other member state" – and ranked the UK first for taxes on tobacco, fourth for alcohol and seventh for food and soft drinks.
Finland, meanwhile, was labelled the EU's number-one nanny state owing to its taxes on chocolate, soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco. Finland also has an outright ban on e-cigarettes, a ban on happy hours and heavy restrictions on advertising, according to the IEA.
"Although paternalistic laws are often said to be justified on health grounds, analysis of the figures found no link between nanny state regulation and longer life expectancy," the think tank said in a statement. "Countries with heavy regulation of alcohol do not have lower rates of drinking, and countries with heavy regulation of tobacco do not have lower rates of smoking."
Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the IEA, said the report made "depressing reading" for Brits opposing heavy-handed regulation.
"Britain is the third worst country in the EU for lifestyle freedoms. Only Finland and Sweden are worse places to be a drinker and nowhere is worse to be a smoker," Snowdon said. "The UK's only saving grace is its liberal approach to e-cigarettes but all in all the results make depressing reading for those of us who want the government to keep out of our private lives.
"Unless you are a teetotal, non-smoking vegetarian, my advice is to go to Germany or the Czech Republic this summer," he added.
The Czech Republic received the lowest score in the league table, earning it the title of the "most liberal country in the EU".