There are still quite a few <br /> tags used in Moodle core code. When possible, it would be better to use css to add white space.
Functions print_user(), error(), print_spacer() (in weblib.php) output some.
They are heavily used in forum.
It should be possible to use <div> and css instead. This will make it a bit easier to create simpler themes... and make Moodle look better on small screens.