Welsh councils are investing over £80M in tobacco industry

Friends of the Earth Cymru are calling for local authorities in Wales to stop investing in an industry that contributes significantly to climate-changing emissions, causes plastic pollution, and leads to over 5,000 deaths in Wales every year.

Local Authority Pension Funds (LAPFs) in Wales are investing over £80 million in tobacco firms such as British American Tobacco according to information gained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests (see table 1 below). 

Welsh LAPFs are also investing around £1bn directly or indirectly in fossil fuel companies.

“This news should be a wakeup call to pension fund trustees and fund managers to switch to more ethical investments,” says Bleddyn Lake, a spokesperson from Friends of the Earth Cymru.

“Local authorities in Wales need to act now by taking their money out of tobacco firms, fossil fuel companies and other industries fuelling catastrophic climate change. Continuing to invest in these companies legitimises their operations. LAPFs who invest in them are basically profiting from climate change. Local authorities must stop supporting these companies: ditch the fossil fuels and bin the tobacco.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned that we only have 12 years at most to act decisively to prevent dangerous runaway climate change.

While the health implications of smoking have been well publicised for many years, the environmental damage caused by the tobacco industry is only now coming to the fore.

According to a recent report, annual tobacco production results in almost 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions - more than twice the emissions of the whole of Wales. Tobacco farms take up more than 20,000 square miles of land, use up more than 22 billion tonnes of water, and cause deforestation in Asia and Africa.

Cigarettes are also one of the most pervasive forms of litter in the world. Plastic filters can take up to 12 years to degrade and cigarette butts leak toxins that contaminate water and harm marine life and the environment.

 

Suzanne Cass, Chief Executive Officer for ASH Wales said:

“Across Wales local authorities are investing time and money in implementing tobacco control policies designed to reduce smoking prevalence.  It is highly ironic therefore that at the same time they are investing in excess of £80 million in the tobacco industry.

 “From a financial point of view tobacco is quite simply a bad investment. Growing awareness of the harms of smoking mean smokers could become a dying breed, with many turning their backs on tobacco and fewer young people than ever taking up the habit.

“There is no sustainable future for the tobacco industry and we would urge local authorities to put their pension funds to better use. Smoking is to blame for 80% of lung cancer cases across the UK. In 2017 there were 1,891 deaths from lung cancer in Wales.  

"It accounts for one in every four cancer deaths in the country, killing more than bowel and breast cancer combined.

"Smoking is also a leading cause of cardiovascular disease and it costs the Welsh NHS an estimated £302 million a year to treat those with smoking related conditions.

"Currently 19% of Welsh adults smoke with prevalence highest in our most deprived communities, leading to stark health inequalities."

 

Table 1: Welsh councils investing in tobacco companies

 

NAME OF PENSION FUND

 

TOTAL AMOUNT INVESTED IN TOBACCO COMPANIES

Torfaen Pension fund - Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Newport and Torfaen county councils

 

 

Just over £22 million

 

Clwyd Pension Fund - Flintshire, Denbighshire, Wrexham county councils

 

Just over £965,000

 

Dyfed Pension Fund - Carmarthen, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion county councils

 

Around £32 million

 

Swansea Pension Fund - Swansea and Neath Port Talbot county councils

 

Just over £25 million

 

Rhondda Cynon Taf – RCT, Bridgend and Merthyr councils

 

No information available

 

Powys Pension Fund – Powys council

 

No information available

 

Cardiff & Vale Pension Fund – Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Councils

 

No information available

 

Gwynedd - Gwynedd & Anglesey councils

 

No information available

 

TOTAL

 

Circa £80 million

Source: Freedom of Information requests, 2019

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