Public health charity ASH Wales has called for an end to public sector pension investments in tobacco companies after it discovered that Welsh local authorities hold £116m of their pension funds in the industry.

A Freedom of Information request carried out by the charity, has revealed that Local Authority Pension Funds serving Wales’s 22 counties held £116m of public money in tobacco in 2010/11 including in British American Tobacco; Phillip Morris; Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco.

Seven of the eight Pension Funds which serve Wales’s 22 councils hold internal investments in tobacco, but an analysis of each council’s annual reports showed that all eight Pension Funds had additional monies managed by external investment managers whose investments were not always known.

In February 2012 the Welsh Government pledged to reduce adult smoking rates from 23% to 16% by 2020 which includes a requirement on local authorities to produce their own Tobacco Action Plans.

Rhondda Cynon Taff Pension Fund which covers Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and RCT local authorities – which have some of the highest smoking rates in the country – invested £36.5m in tobacco companies.

Chief Executive of ASH Wales Elen de Lacy, said:

“It is a scandal that local authorities are allowed to invest employees’ money in tobacco companies when evidence shows their products are killing more than 5,000 people each year in Wales. It is also baffling that councils feel that that this sort of investment is appropriate when they are signed up to reducing the harm caused by smoking in their tobacco action plans and partnerships with local tobacco action groups.

“Public opinion also shows that tobacco industry investments should be dropped. A 2012 YouGov survey of 1,381 Welsh adults found that only 9% opposed the idea that public sector pension schemes should not invest in tobacco companies.

“Research also shows that investments in tobacco companies no longer make sound financial sense because of increased taxation and growing public health measures around the world. The London borough of Newham Pension Fund has decided not to invest in tobacco companies because they were not a sound investment.

As pooled investment managers are now able to tailor investment funds away from the tobacco industry into ethical funds, we believe that Welsh local authorities should follow suit and make all of their pension funds transparent and tobacco-free.”

Notes

  • Full FOI responses from each local authority Pension Fund including total investments is contained in the attached report produced by ASH Wales
  • All 22 local authorities in Wales were subject to a Freedom of Information request in December 2011. The information contained in the responses showed there were 8 local authority Pension Funds serving the 22 counties. Seven of these held internal investments in tobacco companies (Cardiff said it did not). However, in addition to internally held funds, analysis of annual reports showed that all 8 Pension Funds had some of their monies managed by external investment managers. The most common manager was Blackrock.
  • Smoking-related diseases cost the NHS in Wales more than £386m in 2009 – more than £1m a day.