Home > Uncategorized > Councils told to stub out big tobacco pension deals – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

Councils told to stub out big tobacco pension deals – UK Politics – UK – The Independent

Councils told to stub out big tobacco pension deals – UK Politics – UK – The Independent.

A major story is published in today’s Independent newspaper, showing that councils have up to £2 billion invested in tobacco, at least £1.3 billion in direct investments, the rest in collective investments such as tracker funds.  The story is based on Freedom of Information requests to all council pension funds, of which 60% responded (one presumes the others are all in breach of the FOI Act!).

The printed version includes a map showing that funds in the North West, North East and Yorkshire have the largest holdings.  These areas also have the highest smoking prevalences in the country and smoking takes a huge toll on these communities, both in health terms and economically.  How sad and shocking that councillors in charge of pension funds seem to think that this is a price worth paying when alternative investments are readily available without the associated toll of death and misery for their constituents.

Yesterday the government released the new public health outcomes framework, which will apply to local authorities in their new public health leadership role from 2013.  Amongst the outcomes to be measured are adult and teenage smoking prevalence, and smoking in pregnancy, all of which already have ambitious reduction targets in the Tobacco Control Plan for England.

In addition the framework has a vision to improve healthy life expectancy and reduce health inequalities.  Smoking is the major cause of premature mortality (easily more than drugs, alcohol, road crashes and other types of accidents, suicide, and diabetes added together), and killing half of life long smokers, typically after a prolonged period of suffering from lung diseases such as COPD and cancer.  Smoking is also by far the single largest factor driving health inequalities, with up to half the difference in life expectancy between the poor and better off attributable to smoking.

So, from April 2013 Councils will be expected to drive down smoking prevalence in their localities.  Yet if they continue to hold tobacco investments they will clearly have a huge conflict of interest as their fund managers seek to maximise financial returns from tobacco companies while their public health teams seek to minimise tobacco use.  Surely the public health must come first!

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