Britain is near the top of the 'nanny state' league when it comes to smoking and drinking

Britain is one of the worst places in Europe to be a wine-drinking smoker.
Britain is one of the worst places in Europe to be a wine-drinking smoker.

'Nanny state' laws make Britain one of the worst places in Europe to be a smoker or drinker, according to a new report.

The UK is ranked as the third most meddling country in the EU when it comes to regulating its citizens' private lives, think tank researchers found.

So-called 'sin taxes' combined with regulation mean the country comes behind only Finland and Sweden for intervening in lifestyle freedoms in the 2016 Nanny State Index.

While teetotal, non-smoking vegetarians fair well, those with more indulgent dispositions are better off heading to Germany or the Czech Republic, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) suggests.

Countries with heavy alcohol and tobacco regulation do not have lower rates of drinking or smoking, according to the report.

"The big picture is that there is no correlation between nanny state regulation and higher life expectancy," it states.

The league table, published by the IEA and European Policy Information Centre, ranked each of the 28 EU countries based on how they try to control smoking, drinking, eating and 'vaping' - the use of e-cigarettes.

Assessments were based on the taxation, advertising restrictions, bans and other regulations each states imposes.

Taxes on chocolate, soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco as well as bans on e-cigarettes and happy hours put Finland at the top of the index.

The UK has the most "draconian" smoking ban, the highest rates of tax on wine and cigarettes, and comes second only to Finland on beer duty, according to the researchers.

Spirits duty is also higher than every non-Scandinavian member state, it found.

Overall, Britain comes top for its tobacco controls, fourth for alcohol and seventh for food and soft drinks, the report said.

The Czech Republic was the lowest ranking, closely followed by Germany and Luxembourg.

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the IEA, said: "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.

"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."