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January 10th, 2013:

Another super fund drops its investment in tobacco

Dan Harrison
Published: January 10, 2013 – 3:00AM

THE superannuation fund for health and community services workers has become the latest fund to dump its investments in tobacco.

HESTA chief executive Anne-Marie Corboy confirmed the fund had started removing tobacco investments from its portfolios this year, following a decision by the fund’s board late last year.

Ms Corboy said she expected the fund, which has more than 750,000 members, to have sold all its tobacco investments by about April.

She said for more than a decade the fund had allowed members to put together tobacco-free portfolios, and had excluded tobacco from its ethical investment option since early 2012. She said less than $35 million of the $20 billion managed by the fund was invested in tobacco.

Anne Jones, the chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health Australia, welcomed the move.

”If a health fund invests in the tobacco industry, they are part of the tobacco industry,” she said. ”It’s clearly unethical.”

HESTA’s decision comes as the Future Fund weighs what to do with its tobacco investments, worth more than $200 million. Fund chairman David Gonski told a Senate hearing in October the fund had not set out to invest in cigarette makers, but acquired its tobacco shares through investments in fund managers, which often had a mandate to own top-performing stocks.

Ms Jones called on the Future Fund to dump its stake, arguing it was hypocritical for Australia to try to stamp out smoking domestically while profiting from it abroad.

”You can’t have Australia being a leader in tobacco control driving down smoking rates at home but saying it’s OK for us to be investing in getting poor people addicted in other countries,” she said.

In November, the New South Wales government said it would dump more than $200 million in tobacco investments and ban them in future.

First State Super, which has more than 770,000 members and more than $32 billion in funds under management, said in July it had disposed of all its tobacco investments.

The Victorian government’s investment management organisation, the Victorian Funds Management Corporation, has more than $100 million invested in tobacco and has said it has no intention of getting rid of them.

This story was found at:

UW awarded US$10 million for smoking study

By Karen Herzog of the Journal Sentinel

Jan. 2, 2013

The University of Wisconsin has been awarded a $10 million federal grant to continue a comprehensive study helping smokers quit and to assess how quitting affects their health, lifestyle and well-being.

While research has established that smoking is dangerous, less is known about how quitting affects health vs. continuing to smoke.

The study will recruit 600 to 800 adult smokers in the Milwaukee and Madison areas and give those selected for the study free coaching and medications to help them quit.

It will offer participants potentially lifesaving tests – including artery scans that can signal impending risk of a stroke or heart attack – at one- to three-year intervals throughout the study, free of charge, to assess their health over time. That’s literally thousands of dollars in benefits.

The new study recruits will join several hundred patients from the original Wisconsin Smokers’ Health Study launched in 2005, allowing researchers to collect health data spanning several years. Everyone from the previous study – whether they are now smoking or not – will be invited to continue in the next phase of the study, bringing the total number of participants to roughly 1,500.

“It’s the most comprehensive study of smokers ever to help patients quit and to follow them over time,” said Michael Fiore, director of the UW Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, which was founded in 1992 to research the nature of tobacco dependence and develop evidence-based treatments for smokers. The center is part of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.

The five-year grant announced Wednesday is from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH. The first phase of the study received $8 million from the NIH.

Among the free exams that participants will receive are ones that track cholesterol levels in addition to artery scans, blood counts, diabetes tests, lung function tests and monitoring for cancer.

The first phase of the study saw a 35% smoking cessation rate – seven times better than the rate for smokers who try to quit on their own, said Fiore. Typically, those who quit for a year do not resume smoking, he said. Most relapse in the first couple weeks after trying to quit.

Each study participant will receive one of three medications to help them quit smoking: Varenicline (Chantix), the nicotine patch plus nicotine lozenges, or just the nicotine patch.

Chantix and the nicotine patch with nicotine lozenge treatments have demonstrated the highest quit rates of all quit-smoking medications, according to Timothy Baker, a study investigator along with Fiore and James Stein of UW Preventive Cardiology. However, the two treatments have never been compared head-to-head.

“We’ll not only determine which works better,” Baker said in a prepared statement, “but also whether one approach works better with some types of smokers than does the other.”

At the end of the study, researchers hope to enhance the understanding of how to treat smoking optimally, how quitting smoking helps participants to reduce their risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer, and the mechanisms by which these health benefits occur.

Wisconsin currently has about 800,000 smokers. And funding for the state’s smoking cessation hotline can help only about 12,000 smokers a year, according to Fiore. “We believe 30,000 or more would take advantage” if more funding were available, Fiore said. “We know from research that every dollar spent on helping people to quit smoking has a $2 to $3 return on investment within three years.”

The smoking rate among Wisconsin Medicaid recipients is double the smoking rate for adults in general, Fiore said.

Cutting down smoking among those on Medicaid will “help the bottom line of one of the biggest cost drivers in Wisconsin,” he said.

“We know that, paradoxically, people below the poverty level smoke at a rate two times the rate of those above the poverty line,” Fiore said. “It’s primarily the poor, least educated and people with psychiatric or substance abuse challenges who smoke.”

The study will actively seek participants who fall below the poverty line.

“It’s a misconception that the poor don’t want to quit smoking,” said Fiore.

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