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October 25th, 2012:

Australia pension fund reviewing tobacco stake

AFP October 25, 2012, 6:59 pm

Sydney, Sept 12, 2012 (AFP) – – The Australian government’s pension fund for public servants said Thursday it was reviewing its investment in tobacco shares following the passage of plain packaging laws in a bid to curb smoking.

The Future Fund, which manages some Aus$80 billion in retirement savings for government workers, said its board had requested a review of tobacco holdings worth Aus219 million in the light of Canberra’s new anti-smoking policies.

“We think it’s important, particularly given the responsibility for managing such a large pool of capital for the long term, that we take a careful, methodical and considered approach to these kinds of issues,” said Future Fund managing director Mark Burgess.

“This work has been started and will include consideration of the cost and implications of exclusion.”

Tobacco products in Australia will have to be sold in drab, uniform khaki packaging with graphic health warnings from December 1 after smoking giants lost a High Court challenge to the measures in August.

The fund has come under growing pressure to dump the shares after it was revealed in the Senate last week that new stock worth almost Aus$40 million was being bought at the same time the new policies were being pushed through.

Health groups and the left-wing Greens party have described the investment as inconsistent with public values.

The Australian government estimates there are 15,000 deaths nationally each year from tobacco-related illnesses and that smoking costs more than Aus$30 billion a year in healthcare and lost productivity.

The Future Fund has holdings in major firms including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco Inc and Philip Morris — all of whom were parties to the High Court challenge to Australia’s plain packet plan.

It has previously jettisoned holdings on ethical grounds, selling off its stock in 10 defence companies that manufactured cluster munitions and land-mines in 2011.

Similar moves against tobacco firms were taken by the Norwegian government’s pension fund in 2010.

— Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report —

Walpole Health Board divided on tobacco age issue

By Veronica Hamlett

Wicked Local Walpole

Posted Oct 25, 2012 @ 04:38 PM


The Board of Health will consider raising the local age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 years old after hearing a local pediatrician’s impassioned plea.

The board voted unanimously to open up Walpole’s tobacco regulations for change and will hold a public hearing on Jan. 8 before they make any decisions.

Though they agreed to get public input first, the board is divided on the issue. Chairman Bill Morris already gave his support to Dr. Lester Hartman, the Westwood physician who approached the board earlier this month.

Hartman is asking all Boston suburbs to consider raising the age from 18 to 21 to protect children from smoking’s harmful effects. Though they’re adults legally, 18-year-olds are still children in that their brains and bodies are still developing.

Morris agreed with Hartman’s case.

Board members Lisa Procaccini and Claire Wolfram think 18-year-olds should still be allowed to purchase tobacco.

“It’s not that I think they should be smoking. I just think, they’re adults,” Procaccini said. “They’re going to smoke if they want to smoke. That law isn’t going to change that.”

Wolfram didn’t see how upping the age in Walpole would reduce teen smoking, another reason Hartman is pushing for 21-year-olds to be able to buy cigarettes.

“I don’t think we should bother with this,” Wolfram said.

Board member Carol Johnson indicated she would support increasing the age, while fellow board member Richard Bringhurst said he had mixed feelings on the issue.

“I’m obviously opposed to anything that stunts growth,” said Bringhurst, also a doctor. “I think I am concerned about the economic impact on small businesses.”

The Board of Health will have the final say on changing the age. In 2010, the board voted to ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco in pharmacies.

So far, only two towns have upped the allowable age. Needham first raised it to 21 and then amended it to 19. In July, Belmont raised their age to 19.

Hartman is hoping for a domino effect amongst Boston suburbs that will force the state to take notice

Read more: Walpole Health Board divided on tobacco age issue – Walpole, MA – Wicked Local Walpole

Future Fund’s tobacco investments face chop

Clancy Yeates
Published: October 25, 2012 – 3:56PM

The taxpayer-owned Future Fund has put its $219 million in tobacco investments under review, and will consider the case for ditching the controversial holdings.

The $80 billion fund amassed its stake in big tobacco at the same time Labor was introducing its plain packaging laws, sparking criticism from health advocates and some members of the government.

But the fund’s managing director, Mark Burgess, today said the fund’s governance committee was considering the investment in cigarette manufacturers after a request from the board.

“This work has been started, and will include consideration of the costs and implications of exclusion as well as the board’s ability to…and responsibilities and obligations to act in this area,” Mr Burgess said.

“It’s early days in that process, but the committee will provide its findings to the board and the board will make a determination and this will be communicated publicly at the appropriate time.”

The Future Fund, a nest egg for future pension liabilities of public servants, holds a range of tobacco stocks including British American Tobacco, Philip Morris and Lorillard, which owns the Kent and Old Gold brands.

Until now, it has defended the investments by saying they do not breach any Australian or international laws.

Finance Minister Penny Wong has also refused to intervene, saying the fund’s investment decisions must remain independent from government.

In recent months its board, chaired by David Gonski, has faced intense pressure from health groups to reconsider the investments. Some overseas sovereign wealth funds have excluded themselves from tobacco, and the Future Fund previously sold its shares in defence companies that were involved in making cluster bombs.

Mr Burgess denied the decision to review the tobacco investments was influenced by public pressure or a letter from Attorney General Nicola Roxon, who as health minister last year wrote to the fund requesting it no longer invest in tobacco.

“We’re not responding to any particular issue or environment. It’s simply the board sub-committee and the board itself believe that this has come up in the normal course of review,” he said.

Mr Burgess did not say when the review would report its findings into the tobacco investments, which were worth $219 million at the end of September.

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