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Investors Demand Action from Hollywood on Smoking in Youth-Rated Films

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Festival organisers cut deals with tobacco firms, gov’t inspectors step in

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Canadian health groups respond to Philip Morris International’s $1 billion research fund

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Imee Marcos, Ilocos Norte officials apologize to Fariñas over resolutions

The rival politicians from Ilocos Norte eventually patch things up, as Marcos tells Fariñas that they are ‘very, very sorry’ for declaring him persona non grata

https://www.rappler.com/nation/180747-ilocos-norte-imee-marcos-apology-house-farinas

After several hours of debate and argument, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos and provincial board members apologized to the House of Representatives and to Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Rodolfo Fariñas for a resolution and a draft resolution which offended lawmakers.

One by one, members of the board present during a Thursday, August 31 hearing into the alleged misuse of tobacco funds in the province, apologized to both the House and Fariñas. Several of the board members were either personal friends or former local government subordinates of Fariñas himself.

The House committee on good government and public accountability had earlier criticized two resolutions – one which was passed and the other, shelved – regarding an ongoing inquiry. One resolution declared Fariñas, former Ilocos Norte governor, persona non grata over the probe.

Another resolution condemned the probe, criticizing the “tyranny” of the House and accusing lawmakers of holding the probe “in aid of [their] political ambition.” This resolution was eventually archived.

The House committee ordered the provincial board members to explain why they should not be held in contempt for the two resolutions.

“I will propose that in their next session, it be withdrawn with apologies. I think we were all inflamed with concern and worry, and as a result, are very, very sorry that this may, in some way or another, offended or interfered in the operations of the House,” said Marcos, who had signed the resolution declaring Fariñas persona non grata.

After their apologies, Fariñas proposed to “just forgive” the Ilocos Norte officials. The crowd, composed primarily of Ilocos Norte officials and House staff, erupted into applause.

Fariñas, however, warned that the House would not be as kind should the incident happen again. “Let this serve as a warning to all other entities to respect also the proceedings of the House because a repetition of such an offense will be dealt with more severely by the House,” he said.

The House, because of a resolution filed by Fariñas, is looking into the alleged misuse of tobacco funds in the purchase of vehicles for Ilocos Norte. During Thursday’s hearing, documents from the vehicle seller and the local government indicated a P195,000 difference between the selling price and the purchase price declared by the local government.

Six Ilocos Norte officials – those involved in the purchase of the vehicles – were detained by the House for nearly two months for refusing to answer questions properly.

Tobacco Industry Makes Strides in Trump’s Washington

President Trump may have promised to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists in Washington, but six months into his administration it seems the swamp is winning.

http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/tobacco_companies_trump_administration_20170713

A new report published in The Guardian exposes how tobacco companies are gaining significant political victories under Trump, due to lobbying efforts and the fact that tobacco business insiders have been appointed to top positions in the president’s administration. Jessica Glenza explains:

America’s largest cigarette manufacturers, Reynolds American and Altria Group, donated $1.5m to help the new president celebrate his inauguration. The donations allowed executives to dine and mingle with top administration officials and their families.

Not long after Trump promised to transfer power from Washington to the American people, a wave of spending in pursuit of influence was unleashed. In the first quarter of 2017, tobacco companies and trade associations spent $4.7m lobbying federal officials. Altria, the company behind Marlboro, hired 17 lobbying firms. Reynolds, makers of the Camel brand, hired 13, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.

Since then, tobacco companies have been putting points on the scoreboard. Politicians and officials with deep ties to the tobacco industry now head the US health department, the top attorney’s office and the Senate, even as tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death.

Agencies in charge of reviewing large mergers let a window slip by in which they might have requested information about a $49bn merger between Reynolds and British American Tobacco (BAT). That merger, expected to be voted through by shareholders next week, will make BAT the biggest listed tobacco company in the world, and puts proceeds from eight out of 10 cigarettes sold in the US into the pockets of two companies: Altria and BAT. …

The Food and Drug Administration has twice delayed legal briefs to defend regulations of e-cigarettes, products cigarette makers say are the future. Summer deadlines for cigar and e-cigarette makers to file applications with the FDA, which regulates the products, have all been delayed by the Trump administration.

And the high-profile attorney Noel Francisco, who once argued for Reynolds that including a quit-line phone number on cigarette packs amounted to government advocacy against smoking, has been nominated for the post of solicitor general, the government’s top attorney.

The companies now securing regulatory wins are also partly responsible for Trump’s victory in the 2016 election. “For Trump’s inaugural celebration, Reynolds American gave $1m. Altria Group gave $500,000,” Glenza reports. “The US Chamber of Commerce, which has been fiercely pro-tobacco in recent years, gave $25,000.”

Prior to becoming president, Trump profited from tobacco companies, Glenza says. His past financial disclosures “show he earned up to $2.1m from tobacco holdings in diversified portfolios,” although he has since claimed (without offering any proof) to have sold his stocks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and members of Trump’s administration including Vice President Mike Pence have deep ties to the tobacco industry. Glenza shows the links between tobacco company donations and pro-tobacco policymaking.

“Tobacco industry influence in Washington is pervasive, in many different ways,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a longtime opponent of smoking, tells The Guardian. “As in so many areas, the promise to drain the swamp has been an extraordinary hypocrisy.”

Investing in tobacco firms not banned, LIC tells Bombay HC

Mumbai city news: LIC was replying to a public interest litigation objecting to public sector insurance companies investing in firms manufacturing tobacco products

http://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/investing-in-tobacco-firms-not-banned-lic-tells-bombay-hc/story-ceFSeRSF8q5YNeiRTPRfKL.html

Investing in tobacco companies indirectly is neither prohibited nor banned by any authority, the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) said in an affidavit filed in the Bombay high court.

LIC was replying to a public interest litigation objecting to public sector insurance companies investing in firms manufacturing tobacco products.

“Secondary investment in tobacco companies is neither prohibited nor banned by any authority,” says the affidavit filed by Vikas Chaturvedi, assistant secretary (investment operations) of LIC. “LIC is a corporate body and must function on business principles as far as possible. Ninety-five per cent of its surplus goes to policy vendors,” added the affidavit.

It added that the investment was in accordance with the provisions of the LIC Act, the Insurance Act and guidelines laid down by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority, and other prevailing rules and regulations. “LIC looked at several companies with a good track record for investment options,” said the affidavit, adding, “ITC is one such company.”

The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL by anti-tobacco activist Sumitra Pednekar and doctors attached to Tata Memorial Hospital. Meanwhile, the court allowed Karnataka state branch of Indian Medical Association to assist it by listing the ill-effects of tobacco.

Big tobacco’s big profits

Why are tobacco companies’ profits still booming – despite government regulation and declining smoking rates?

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/countingthecost/2017/06/big-tobacco-big-profits-170603092904305.html

Smoking kills. So if you’re in an industry where your product is known to be damaging the health of people who buy it, then you should, in theory, go out of business.

But shares in companies listed in the Bloomberg tobacco producers index have risen 351 percent since 2009, making it one of the best investments of the past decade.

Graphic warning labels and taxes seem to have some effect on reducing the number of smokers but less so on industry profits which keep rising. And investors can’t quit buying the stocks because operating profits continue to go up.

Although some pension funds and life insurers have turned their back on the sector, it’s still not enough to hit big tobacco where it hurts.

Different tax regimes around the world mostly account for the difference in price of cigarettes. But governments are not as hooked as the consumers who buy cigarettes.

Consumers cough up for higher prices because they crave the drug in tobacco – nicotine. Without nicotine addiction, there would be no tobacco industry.

The tobacco industry knows this and has diversified to develop other nicotine products like E-cigarettes. The electronic cigarette market has grown from just $50m in 2005 to an estimated $7.5bn last year, according to Euromonitor. It’s all part of the unique economy of addiction.

New evidence suggests the dangers of cigarettes in the United States have increased despite the fall of smoking rates in recent years. A new study has found that so-called “light” cigarettes may be behind a spike in lung cancer cases, as Heidi Zhou-Castro reports.

Jeremias Paul from the World Health Organization joins Counting the Cost from Geneva to discuss the unique dynamics of the nicotine economy.

Paul thinks the tobacco industry should pay more taxes because they’re making a profit out of people’s addiction.

“If they cause death, they should be taxed to death. In the latest global adult tobacco survey, there was a reduction in tobacco use of about 20 percent, which essentially proves increasing taxes regenerates a lot of revenues but at the same time reduces consumption.”

ABP under pressure over €1.5bn tobacco investments

Employees of the Netherlands’ university medical centres (UMC) have called for their pension fund, ABP, to stop investing in the tobacco industry.

https://www.ipe.com/countries/netherlands/abp-under-pressure-over-15bn-tobacco-investments/10019240.article

Jos Aartsen, chairman of the academic hospital UMC Groningen, spoke out during a conference entitled ‘Aiming for a smoke free health care sector’, organised by the Royal Dutch Medical Association earlier this week.

Aartsen complained that employees of academic hospitals as participants in ABP were effectively obliged to invest in the tobacco industry.

“I stand here on behalf of 70,000 employees of the eight UMCs. We are ashamed of these investments,” said Aartsen, quoted on the UMC Groningen website. “Investing in tobacco is not what we want.”

The Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers confirmed that all eight Dutch academic hospitals supported Aartsen’s call.

Aartsen acknowledged that tobacco companies can produce yields for investors.

“But every year, 20,000 people die unnecessarily because of smoking,” he added. “The fact these deaths are happening is more important than the return on investment in tobacco.”

Aartsen argued that it was a matter of social and governance responsibility for ABP to exclude tobacco.

Other funds had already excluded tobacco investments, he added, including healthcare pension fund PFZW and sector pension funds for GPs and for medical specialists.

ABP currently invests €1.5bn in tobacco-related assets, a spokesperson for the fund said. She pointed out that tobacco was legal in the Netherlands and regulated by the Dutch government.

The pension fund said it screened tobacco companies for issues involving child labour or unethical marketing practices. It also said it was in dialogue with several stakeholder organisations.

In addition, ABP was working on an “inclusion policy”, the spokesperson said. The next few years will see companies consciously chosen for the portfolio based on the criteria of return, risk, cost, sustainability, and accountability.

University medical centres are currently employer members of ABP, although there have been attempts to transfer this sector to PFZW, which caters for regular hospital staff.

A study by the Dutch Heart Foundation and the Association of Investors in Sustainable Development in March showed that more than two-thirds of pension funds didn’t have a policy in place for tobacco investments, compared to 10% of insurers.

It suggested the difference was attributable to the fact that many insurers also sell healthcare policies and have adjusted their investment policies accordingly.

The metalworkers pension scheme PME has excluded from its portfolio any companies that get more than 75% of their revenues from tobacco sales.

The €22bn multi-sector pension fund PGB is working on a similar policy, following a survey suggesting that just 17% of its participants supported tobacco investments.

PFZW ceased investing in cigarette manufacturers in 2013.

Hampshire County Council slammed after £80 million pumped into British American Tobacco

CIVIC chiefs have been slammed after pumping £81 million into a tobacco company.

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/News/15323523.Council_slammed_after_funds_pumped_into_tobacco_firm/

Hampshire County Council’s pension fund has invested the money into one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world, British American Tobacco (BAT).

The council top the list of UK authorities who have investments in tobacco.

However, some of the world’s largest investment organisations have called for UK authorities to pull out of tobacco investments.

One big name to sell its tobacco shares is the French insurance giant Axa.

The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), said it was ‘silly’ for one part of the council to be trying to promote health while the pension fund was, indirectly, promoting smoking.

Simon Howard, chief executive of UKSIF said: “Many local authorities now have responsibility for tobacco control and smoking cessation activities.

“If Hampshire is one of the local authorities which has responsibility for stopping smoking then it also seems silly for their pension fund to own tobacco shares. They are perfectly able to sell these shares.”

The county council currently manage a pension fund of £5,213 million on behalf of more than 300 employers and public bodies, and around 155,000 current and former staff.

Defending their actions, a spokesperson from the authority said: “Social, environmental and ethical considerations are taken into account when assessing the financial potential and suitability of investments.

“The independent pension fund has a fiduciary duty, by law, to invest fund monies to achieve the best possible financial return.”

Pension fund panel and board member, Councillor Bruce Tennent (pictured), said the council couldn’t be an organisation that puts ethics above financial return.

Cllr Tennent, who has been on the board for seven years, said: “Yes, ethical considerations are taken into account.

“There are break-downs in high and low-risk investments and ethical and non-ethical investments. We can’t be a board who puts ethics above monetary interests.”

BAT has its UK base in Southampton and employs 1,200 at its Millbrook site which is its global centre for research and development department and is also home to IT, finance, and distribution departments.

The firm has been in the city for more than a century but ceased cigarette manufacture here more than a decade ago. However, it employs more staff now than at any time ins recent history.

BAT declined to comment on the issue and referred the Daily Echo to The Tobacco Manufacturers Association, who said the industry was a sound investment.

Giles Roca, director general of the organisation, said: “Fund managers are free and indeed required to make the best financial decisions for their investors.

“Many commentators would point to the tobacco industry’s strong financial performance in recent years as a reason why its shares are considered an attractive buy for pension funds.”

While acknowledging the need for the county council to get the best deal for their pensioners, public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said that pension fund boards had to think seriously about balancing financial obligations with health promotions.

Director of policy, Hazel Cheeseman, said: “Increasingly fund managers around the world are seeing tobacco as neither acceptable nor sustainable.

“Over the long term we ask funds to think seriously about how they balance both their financial obligations and the obligations local councils have to promote health.”

This week the World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures as part of its

WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan said: “By taking robust tobacco control measures, governments can safeguard their countries’ futures by protecting tobacco users and non-users from these deadly products, generating revenues to fund health services.”

When asked to comment, several local and national cancer charities declined to do so.

UK councils under pressure over £1bn of tobacco investments

Major investors set example to local authorities with commitment to selling shares in cigarette makers

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/may/31/uk-councils-under-pressure-over-1bn-of-tobacco-investments

Some of the world’s largest investment firms have thrown their weight behind efforts to combat smoking, sparking renewed calls for UK local authorities to divest all their shares in the tobacco industry from their pension fund investments.

More than 50 companies managing $3.8tn (£3tn) of money, including pension funds and insurers, declared support for “tobacco control measures being taken around the world” – even though some of them still own shares in tobacco businesses.

In a joint statement, released to coincide with World No Tobacco Day, they said: “We in the investment community are becoming increasingly aware of the important role we can play in helping to address the health and societal impacts of tobacco.”

The firms cited studies suggesting that smoking costs the global economy more than $1tn a year, outstripping global revenues from tobacco taxes.

Signatories of the statement include Axa – the French insurance firm that sold its entire €1.8bn (£1.6bn) tobacco portfolio last year – and Calpers, the giant US fund with nearly $300bn of assets under management. Calpers has also divested itself of all its tobacco investments.

While some large investors have sold tobacco holdings, funds managing the pension investments of UK local authority staff still own at least £1bn of tobacco stocks, according to analysis by the Guardian.

The share register of British American Tobacco (BAT), owner of Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike, includes 28 local government schemes, which together own a combined £700m stake in the company.

The council with the largest investment in BAT is Hampshire county council, with about £81m of pensioners’ money invested in the firm. BAT has an office in Southampton, but ceased production of cigarettes at the site in 2007.

Nottinghamshire Local Government Pension Fund is second with about £62m worth of shares and is also among the largest investors in Imperial Brands, which makes Embassy and Superkings. Cigarettes were produced in Nottingham until May last year.

Imperial counts 19 local authorities among its shareholders, with their investments adding up to nearly £290m.

In total, share registers disclose that local authorities own close to £1bn of shares in the two companies. Their total tobacco investment is likely to be higher if they are invested in separate funds that also count cigarette companies among their portfolio of shares.

One of the obstacles to council pension funds selling tobacco stocks is a legal argument that trustees are obliged to prioritise the need to maximise investment returns over anything else.

But guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government said trustees did have some room for manoeuvre.

“Although schemes should make the pursuit of a financial return their predominant concern, they may also take purely non-financial considerations into account provided that doing so would not involve significant risk of financial detriment to the scheme and where they have good reason to think that scheme members would support their decision.”

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), said this left the door open for selling tobacco stocks.

“Historically, investment in tobacco was seen as safe, promising good returns, but increasingly fund managers are realising investing in tobacco is neither acceptable nor sustainable,” she said.

“Local authority pension funds have a legal duty to get the best deal for their pensioners, but if big investment funds like Axa can disinvest then surely local authorities, which have a legal duty to promote the health of local people, can do the same.”

Dr Bronwyn King, an oncologist who was instrumental in persuading Axa to drop its tobacco investments, said local governments should give serious thought to divesting, particularly given the cost to the public purse of smoking-related illness.

“We call on all government-related pension funds and sovereign wealth funds to look again at their policy,” she said.

“The health sector across the world is unified on tobacco but that alone won’t be enough. If the finance sector continues to invest in tobacco and strives to profit from it, we’re working against each other.”

The statement by investors calling for tighter tobacco control was issued at a conference in Paris to mark the annual no-tobacco day, started by the World Health Organization. WHO has estimated that tobacco claims more than 7 million lives each year.

Thomas Buberl, chief executive of Axa, was among the speakers at the event, a year on from the company’s decision to sell all its tobacco stakes.

“As the Axa group strives to be a partner in society, it is clear that action must be taken to combat the enormous human costs of tobacco,” said Buberl.

“I am convinced we must work together if we want to bring about change. Therefore, we are very proud to be working with other major financial actors and key stakeholders in support of governments to take action on tobacco control.”