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December 10th, 2011:

Wages of sin: who are you funding?

Julia Medew
December 10, 2011 – 3:00AM

DO YOU support tobacco companies, gambling and the makers of weapons and pornography? Before you answer no, you might want to check your superannuation fund.

Ethical investment researchers say many Australians are unwittingly investing in ”sin stocks” because they have not examined their super funds or because their funds do not actively promote their investments.

Melbourne surgeon Benjamin Cook is one of those taken by surprise.

He was horrified to learn that one of his funds, Health Super, counted Imperial Tobacco Group, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International in its top 10 international investments despite marketing itself as the ”fund for people who care”.

The discovery prompted him to dump the multibillion-dollar fund, which represents about 200,000 health and community service workers.

”I’m an ear, nose and throat surgeon who sees throat cancer every day, so to think we’re blindly supporting tobacco is bizarre,” he said.

Sarah Clawson, of the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia, said despite a shift towards more ”socially responsible” or ”sustainable” investments in the super industry over the past decade, many funds still invested in companies that some people might consider unethical.

For example, people passionate about environmental sustainability may be shocked to find their money in mining stocks or companies that log old-growth forests, she said. Companies that made gaming machines, liquor, tobacco products, armaments and pornography were also commonly found in fund portfolios.

She said that only about 35 of more than 400 super funds in Australia had signed up to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment but she hoped the number would grow as more people challenged their funds to invest more ethically.

”It usually takes a scandal for people to think ‘What is my super doing?’,” she said. ”For example, back in 2008 in the Netherlands, people found out that their fund was investing in cluster bombs … People took to the streets and it made the fund change its policy.”

Chris Clausen, former chief executive of Health Super and now deputy chief executive of First State Super, the company Health Super was in the process of merging with, said although the fund did not condone smoking or necessarily want to support tobacco companies, the reality was that ”from an investment hypothesis, tobacco companies stack up”.

He said that while Health Super had a socially responsible investment option that excluded tobacco companies among others, only about 2000 of its 200,000 members had taken it up over the past eight years.

Mr Clausen said one employer had been asking the fund to stop investing in tobacco companies, a demand that was being considered.

Nathan MacPhee, the chief executive of superannuation research company Super Ratings, said if people wanted to choose ethical investments, they should consider the relationships between companies because they might find worrying layers of investment beneath a seemingly innocuous stock.

For example, if someone wanted to avoid gambling, they may choose to eliminate Woolworths, given it was one of the largest owners of poker machines.

While this approach could take hours of research, Mr MacPhee said the effort could be worthwhile.

”You’re generally not sacrificing performance if you choose socially good investments … the evidence we have is that they perform similar to the mainstream and in some cases, they’re in front.”

This story was found at:


The new tax reform which entered into force in Ecuador since November 24, leaves our country in the AMRO’s leading position in tobacco taxes, and in 19th place in the global ranking. Ecuador is strongly committed to public health and a better way of life for its population.

Raising taxes on tobacco is, by itself, the most effective measure to reduce tobacco use. Along with the other measures taken this year, which are expressed in the new National Comprehensive Law and local Smokefree Ordinances already in place in 8 cities across the country, Ecuador is a very remarkable case of advance to comply with the FCTC.

By the initiative of the President of the Republic, and with continuous support from the civil society, Ecuador just enforced a specific tax of $ 0.08 on each cigarette unit, applied to all brands and packaging; this translates in an average increase of 20% in the final price. This is a real milestone for the Region of the Americas and the world, which demonstrates the enormous importance that our Authorities give to the effective enforcement of human rights to life, health and a healthy environment.

With the collaboration of Dr. Roberto Iglesias, an international expert on tobacco taxes, we have calculated the new tax in force in relation to the most recent data available for the world and generated by the World Health Organization (2010) (

According to that, you can find some comparison charts below.

It is remarkable that the new tax meets some of the most advanced recommendations in fiscal policy in this field: it is adjustable every six months according to the consumer price index, which maintains the value against the final price, and other prices in the economy. And it is specific, a fixed amount for all brands and packaging (8 cents per unit), which reduces the incentive for tobacco corporations to lower the prices of some brands, being effective to counteract the industry’s strategy to incorporate new young consumers to the epidemic through low prices.

Now our country has to strengthen customs and police controls, and to reinforce law to prevent illicit traffic. It has to be careful about fake tracking systems currently promoted by the tobacco industry as a whole (Codentify) and reaffirm our sovereignty to implement an adequate and independent control.

The process for the proposal and discussion of this tax has demonstrated that Ecuador has some of the best tax experts in the region, so the Tax Office could support other Latin American countries who would want to advance in this field through South-South cooperation. As civil society, we are convinced that our Authorities, also, are able to push the negotiation of a unique tobacco tax for UNASUR (The Union of South American Nations) which would strengthen the control of illicit traffic and the tobacco tax collecting in each country, thus promoting sub-regional compliance with the FCTC and comprehensive protection of the citizenship.

For more information, please contact: (FESAR-Anti Tobacco Alliance)

THE AMERICAS % excise tax % all other taxes 2010 total
Ecuador 2011 66.7% 10.71% 77.38%
Chile 60% 16% 76%
Argentina 69% 7% 76%
Uruguay 54% 18% 72%
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 68% 3% 71%
Ecuador 2010 54% 11% 64%
Brazil 26% 34% 60%
Peru 31% 19% 50%
Colombia 40% 10% 50%
Bolivia (Plurinational State of) 29% 13% 42%
Canada 58% 9% 67%
United States of America 40% 5% 45%

Source: WHO, 2010; Iglesias, R., Vaca B., R. 2011

GLOBALLY % excise tax % all other taxes 2010 total
Bulgaria 72% 17% 89% 1
Poland 68% 18% 86% 2
Greece 67% 19% 86% 3
Slovakia 67% 16% 83% 4
Romania 64% 19% 83% 5
Estonia 66% 17% 83% 6
Israel 68% 14% 82% 7
Latvia 64% 17% 81% 8
France 64% 16% 80% 9
Portugal 62% 17% 79% 10
Hungary 59% 20% 79% 11
Finland 60% 19% 79% 12
Czech Republic 62% 17% 79% 13
Ireland 61% 17% 79% 14
Turkey 63% 15% 78% 15
Spain 63% 15% 78% 16
Cook Islands 0% 78% 78% 17
West Bank and Gaza Strip 65% 13% 78% 18
ECUADOR 2011 66,70% 10,71% 77,38% 19
Lithuania 60% 17% 77%
United Kingdom 62% 15% 77%
Chile 60% 16% 76%

Source: WHO, 2010; Iglesias, R., Vaca B., R. 2011

Rocio Vaca Bucheli
President & Executive Director FESAR
Anti Tobacco Alliance Technical Secretariat
Quito – Ecuador