Worst country in Europe in consumption freedoms: Turkey enters the Nanny State Index at number one

The Nanny State Index has been tracking lifestyle regulation across Europe since 2016. Turkey was included this year in the index with the contribution of the Freedom Research Association. The index which now covers 30 countries scores the governments for their scope and volume of restrictions on consumer choice of various food and soft drinks, alcohol, tobacco, and e-cigarettes.

Turkey entered the Nanny State Index at number one with a bullet. The country was identified as the least free in Europe concerning consumption. Turkey did not come first only in the general sum of the index but in all three of the four basic categories.

The highest score that Turkey gets, thus the category that it is the least free is the e-cigarettes. 14 points out of 16.7 means that e-cigarettes are banned/regulated in a rate of 83 percent in the country.

Drinks are taxed as high as 300 percent

Another category that carries Turkey to the "top" is alcoholic drinks. The tax burden that reaches up to 300 percent and excessive limitations makes Turkey the least free country for the consumption of alcohol.

Receiving 22.7 points out of 33.3, the closest country to Turkey is Norway with 18.1 points. Norway is the country with the highest pure alcohol consumption per capita in Europe and is fighting alcoholism. By contrast, Turkey has the least average alcohol consumption in Europe. This imbalance is a factor that contributes to Turkey's rank at the top.

Excessive taxing of tobacco

Turkey's rating in relation to tobacco is not much different. Turkey has received 11 points out of 16.7 and the most important reason for this high score is the excessive taxing of cigarettes.

Turkey regulates the sale of tobacco with closed area bans and sale in plain packages like in many other countries in Europe. Only Hungary and the United Kingdom (UK) are higher in the index than Turkey in the tobacco category.

Special Consumption Tax on fizzy drinks

Turkey has a lower score in the fast-food/soft drinks category but still comes at the top. Turkey has scored 5.7 in this category out of 33.3, and the countries that follow Turkey, Irland, and Poland have 4.3 points.

Turkey comes first despite the low score because the country collects Special Consumption Tax on soft drinks and energy drinks.

"A country that towers over its rivals in the most illiberal way"

In the presentation of the index, the country profile of Turkey is described as follows:

Turkey enters the Nanny State Index at number one with a bullet. With high scores in every category and the highest scores for over-regulation of alcohol and vaping, it towers over its rivals in the most illiberal way.

Under the autocratic rule of the staunch teetotaller, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has gone to war on alcohol, tobacco, vaping, and soft drinks.

Cigarettes have to be sold in plain packaging, tobacco cannot be displayed in shops, and cigarette vending machines are prohibited. The age at which people can buy cigarettes was raised to 21 in 2018. Smoking is banned in all workplaces, bars, and restaurants without exception. Since 2019, smoking has been banned in all vehicles, even if nobody else is in them.

Turkey's raft of sin taxes might seem modest to foreign tourists but once adjusted for average incomes, they are highly punitive. Even in cash terms, its taxes on beer and spirits are higher than those in countries such as Denmark and the UK.

In early 2022, with inflation soaring, Turkey's 'Special Consumption Tax' increased the duty on alcoholic drinks and tobacco products by 47 percent overnight.

The sale of energy drinks is banned for people under the age of 18. A tax on sugary drinks amounts to €0.17 per liter and also applies to artificially sweetened drinks.

"Sin taxes"

Besides country profiles, the report accompanying this year's index discusses the nanny state policies in general.

"Coercive nanny state policies create a number of problems and costs. 'Sin taxes' raise the cost of living and hurt the poor. High prices fuel the black market and lead to corruption. Advertising bans restrict competition and stifle innovation. Smoking bans cause serious damage to the hospitality industry. Excessive regulation creates excessive bureaucracy and drains police resources.

"Insofar as 'public health' campaigners acknowledge the damage done by their policies, they argue that it is more than offset by the benefit to health – the ends justify the means. But there is little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity. As Figure 1 shows below, there is no correlation whatsoever between Nanny State Index scores and life expectancy, it says.

Source: English Bianet