ASH fuming over council tobacco investments

KINGSTON Borough Council holds investments in addictive drugs that threatens to produce a conflict of interest.<--break->“><img decoding=British American Tobacco (worth £31.99 each)

* 9,900 shares in Philip Morris Inc (worth 84p each)

* 132 shares in Japan Tobacco (worth £4,560 each)
(Values as of 12 March 2012)

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) claim that the council should take more care over ethical investment and urges the council to ‘dump these over-valued shares’.

The council is responsible for local compliance with the Health Act (2006) which banned smoking in enclosed public places and some unenclosed public places such as bus stops.

The council also works in partnership with local NHS bodies to reduce smoking and help people give up their addiction to nicotine.

Professor Lindsey Davies, President of the Faculty of Public Health, said: “Under the government’s plans to reform the NHS, directors of public health will be employed by local councils.

“That means that it will be the responsibility of the town hall, not just the local hospital, to provide anti-smoking services.

“The very organisation that is supposed to be taking the lead in protecting our health could be using public money to invest in tobacco.

“This is a clear conflict of interest that will undermine councils’ credibility and the public’s trust in the health services they receive.

“We would urge all councils to use the many alternative, and more ethical, forms of investment for their pension funds that still maximise financial return.”

Martin Dockrell of ASH said: “Many council pension fund managers will be under the impression that they have an over-riding duty to get the best return for their pension holders and that rules out ethical considerations.

“With falling smoking rates, increased regulation and more and more litigation, isn’t this the time for Kingston Borough Council to dump these over-valued shares?”

Despite being given a week to formulate a response to the disclosure of its tobacco shareholdings, no-one at Kingston Borough Council was available for comment.

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