Scotland: Pressure on Highland council to ‘stub out’ unethical investments
The Highland council, the largest local government area in the UK, is under pressure to review its holdings in tobacco companies. Independent fund managers are employed by Highland council to oversee a fund worth more than £2 billion. The mix of investments change regularly, but recent examples of contentious choices include shares in British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.
A small band of Highland councillors has registered opposition to “unethical” investments and wants to see change. Councillor MacLean has called for a review of investment strategy: “Some people are not happy with some of the investments and feel that perhaps if it’s invested in tobacco or arms or things like that, it’s not ethically responsible”.
According to current policy, the fund “recognises that social, environmental and ethical considerations are among factors investment managers will take into account, where relevant, when selecting investments for purchase, retention or sale”. However, it stresses that “the overriding consideration for pension committee members is their fiduciary duty to the scheme employers and scheme members”.
Source: Inverness Courier, 30 September 2018
Daily Bulletin 1: Framework Convention Alliance at the WHO FCTC conference of the parties
The eighth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is now underway. It will run from today (1st October) to the 6th October. There will be a Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) bulletin released each day of the COP.
The first bulletin asks: ‘Are we doing enough to stop one billion deaths?’, referring to the prediction from epidemiologists that there will be one billon deaths from tobacco in the course of the 21st century. It reads:
“While no one expects COP8, by itself, to put an immediate end to the epidemic of tobacco-caused death, we should all be aware of the heavy responsibility on our collective shoulders. This is not a week for sterile debates or lengthy diplomatic niceties. It is a week to focus on action, and the slow-motion scandal that is our collective failure to implement the FCTC with the speed and urgency it deserves.
As Geoff Fong explains in this issue, the FCTC works well when implemented – but most Parties have substantial gaps. A key item on the COP’s agenda this week is a proposed Global Strategy to Accelerate Tobacco Control. This is our best hope to tackle the problems Parties face with implementation.”
Tobacco plain packaging momentum growing worldwide with 25 countries and territories moving forward with regulations
A new report released by the Canadian Cancer Society shows that there is a great deal of momentum worldwide around the adoption of plain packaging. Currently, there are 25 countries and territories which have either fully adopted the measure or are working towards it.
Additionally, there has been much progress made with implementing pictorial health warnings on cigarette packaging. There are now 118 countries and territories which require picture health warnings on cigarette packages, an increase from 100 in 2016. This represents countries representing 58% of the world’s population.
Guidelines under the international tobacco treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), recommend that countries consider implementing plain packaging.
See also: Canadian Cancer Society, Cigarette Package Health Warnings: International Status Report
Source: Cision PR Newswire, 1 October 2018
Study: Childhood secondhand smoke exposure tied to arthritis in women
Women exposed to secondhand smoke as children may be more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those raised in smokefree environments, a new study suggests. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune system disorder that causes debilitating swelling and pain in the joints. Smoking has long been linked to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but the new study suggests that secondhand smoke may also increase this risk.
The prospective cohort study involved 71,248 women, including 371 who eventually developed rheumatoid arthritis. Current and former smokers who were not exposed to smoke as children were 38% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who had never smoked. When current or former smokers were also exposed to secondhand smoke during childhood, they were 67% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
See also: Rheumatology, Passive smoking in childhood increases the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis
Source: Reuters, 28 September 2018
Council’s vaping project with British American Tobacco labelled ‘a disgrace’
Emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed that British American Tobacco (BAT) and Birmingham City Council are piloting a project to promote BAT’s vaping products to smokers who want to kick the habit. The emails show that, while the council refused to allow BAT to present the deal as a partnership, the company approached other local authorities on the back of its work with Birmingham as it touted for more business with the public sector.
Public health campaigners said Birmingham’s actions were in breach of guidelines which stipulate that the tobacco industry “must not be a partner in any initiative linked to setting or implementing public health policies” and that all interactions between both sides must be transparent.
Steve Brine, public health minister, said:
“Stop-smoking services exist to save lives – it is a disgrace that British American Tobacco is seeking to exploit them for its own profit. I am committed to working towards a smoke-free generation – and councils play a vital role in this – but we have a duty to protect our public health services from the commercial interests of the tobacco industry.”
Deborah Arnott chief executive of the charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) said:
“Birmingham signed the local government declaration on tobacco control, promising to protect its public health policies from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry. That should have prevented any involvement with BAT on the e-cigarette pilot, which BAT has misrepresented as a ‘partnership’ in its efforts to gain access to other local authorities up and down the country. Birmingham’s experience is a salutary warning to all local authorities that any engagement with tobacco manufacturers should be avoided unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Source: The Observer, 9 September 2018
Hampshire County Council tobacco pension investment under fire
Hampshire County Council is facing criticism after continuing to invest its pension funds in cigarette manufacturing, despite running anti-smoking campaigns. The council has more than £80m invested in tobacco firms which opposition councillors say conflicts with its health promotion role. Its own Tobacco Control Strategy stated smoking caused the death of more than 1,800 people in the county each year.
Advice from the Department for Communities and Local Government states that council pension funds’ “predominant concern” should be perusing a financial return, but could consider other factors “provided that doing so would not involve significant risk of financial detriment to the scheme”.
Source: BBC news, 7 September 2018
Bristol hospital trust to implement smoking ban across all sites
A total ban on smoking and vaping is to be implemented at the University Hospital site in Bristol next year. The ban will include all areas within the Trust’s boundaries.
Matt Joint, director of people at UH Bristol, said: “As a healthcare provider we have a role to play in promoting healthy living and offering support to staff and patients who want to give up smoking. As part of this we’re committed to going completely smoke free, which is something Public Health England has asked all Trusts to do. We receive regular complaints from patients, visitors, parents of children and staff about people smoking in our entrances or near buildings where windows might be open and as a healthcare provider it’s important that we address these issues.”
Source: Bristol Post, 9 September 2018
Trading standards find retailers in North Yorkshire sold cigarettes to teens
Undercover test purchasing conducted by a trading standards team found 16 out of 47 retailers tested in North Yorkshire sold cigarettes to a 15-year-old. The inspection team carry out regular test purchasing in the county to ensure businesses are not selling cigarettes to under-18s.
The volunteers who help North Yorkshire County Council’s trading standards team have strict rules to follow and are instructed to tell the truth at all times, as well as provide identification showing their true age if requested.
Councillor Andrew Lee, said: “Cigarettes are age-restricted to protect the health of our young people and retailers are urged to be aware of the implications of underage sales.’’
Source: The Northern Echo, 8 September 2018