Today is National No Smoking Day. Greens locally have for some while been seeking a more ethical investment policy by our Councils. This last week or so Green County councillor Sarah Lunnon called for an ethical investment policy after she found out millions of pounds of Gloucestershire's pensions' money is tied up in tobacco companies.
Photo: view across motorway towards Slimbridge
The county's Local Government Pension Fund, that covers council and NHS employees, has almost £9million invested the tobacco industry - £6.4million in British American Tobacco and £2.4million in Imperial Tobacco Group. NHS Gloucestershire, which runs NHS Stop Smoking, is also one of the contributing employers to the countywide pension fund which has 40,000 members.
Stroud District Council, which this week runs a No Smoking Day event in Merrywalks Shopping Centre, is a member and last year contributed £1.8million to the fund with its employees adding a further £600,000. Stroud College which offers students advice on how to give up smoking, is also a contributor, paying in £466,000 last year. The fund is administered by Gloucestershire County Council, which invested £40million in the fund last year.
Coun Lunnon is quoted in Stroud Life saying: "I'm calling on the fund to implement an ethical investment strategy and I believe that would exclude tobacco companies, which only have a negative impact on human health. How can we have public health strategies which say 'don't smoke' and at the same time have public money funding tobacco products and advertising?"
Stroud District Council argue that they are not involved in the investment of pension funds - this is administered by the county council. However the District do have a Conservative who sits on that committee and so the issue could be raised.
The answer by the Conservative County Councillor is deeply sad - he is chairman of the county's pension committee which manages the scheme - he tries to defend the actions to Stroud Life saying: "We invest in legal companies which provide the best value for taxpayers and pensioners' money. If the money put aside in the pension fund to pay for employees' pensions isn't enough, council taxpayers have to make up the difference. Investments are made in line with the advice of professional investment advisers. I have no intention of changing to a situation where investments are made in line with the political views of individual councillors."
We need to get rid of such dinosaur views!
Today the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service is supporting the NHS Gloucestershire Stop Smoking as part of the No Smoking Day - fires started by cigarettes kill more people than any other kind of fire - accounting for one third of all accidental fatal fires in the home.
Chief Fire Officer at Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service, Terry Standing said: “Smoking isn’t just about damaging your health; it’s also one of the biggest causes of accidental fires. We’re happy to support No Smoking Day as we are keen to remind people of the dangers of smoking and prevent as many fires as possible. We’re not here to lecture, but we will be on hand to give tips and advice and hopefully prevent at least one smoking related fire this year.”
Early warning smoke alarms can save lives. The Fire Service can supply and fit FREE smoke alarms by ringing 0800 180 41 40. If you want to give up smoking call: 08454 220040 orLocal NHS Stop Smoking Services 01452 429345, National NHS Help line number 0800 169 0 169.