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Health Groups Applaud Ethical Investment Bill

Health Groups Applaud Bill to Stop Government Investment in Tobacco Industry
20 October 2006

Leading health groups and experts are welcoming MP Maryan Street’s Private Member’s Bill that would stop Crown investment in tobacco companies.

Ms Street announced today that she would be putting an Ethical Investments Bill, aimed at requiring Crown Financial Institutions to take social and environmental considerations into account, into the Ballot

Groups supportive of the Bill include the Public Health Association, Smokefree Coalition, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), National Heart Foundation, Cancer Society of New Zealand, Te Hotu Manawa Māori, Te Reo Marama and the National Māori SIDS Unit. A large number of health professionals, clinicians, academics and researchers also support discontinuing investment in the tobacco industry.

In December 2005, the Council for Socially Responsible Investment revealed that all five of New Zealand’s Crown Financial Institutions invested in tobacco companies. They were the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, the Government Superannuation Fund, the National Provident Fund, the Accident Compensation Corporation and the Earthquake Commission[1].

“Investment of Government funds in the tobacco industry is abhorrent,” says Public Health Association Director Dr Gay Keating.

“Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death in New Zealand – more deaths occur each year because of smoking than from HIV, tuberculosis, motor vehicle crashes, suicide and homicide combined.”

She questions why a Private Member’s Bill was necessary.

“We’d like to see the Government put forward a bill so this issue is not subject to the uncertainties of the Private Member’s ballot.”

Health groups and experts believe investment in tobacco companies not only runs counter to the Government’s health priority to reduce tobacco use, it is also unacceptable to the majority of New Zealanders.

“This is the only industry that sells a product that when used exactly as the manufacturer intends will likely kill you,” says Smokefree Coalition Director Mark Peck.

“Adopting a policy to exclude tobacco companies from all public investment funds is a simple and acceptable solution. The New Zealand Government must show leadership on ethical investing and refuse to profiteer from addiction, disease, and death.”

Cancer Society of New Zealand spokesperson Belinda Hughes says the NZ Government should never have permitted investment in the tobacco industry in the first place.

“It doesn’t get more serious than 5000 deaths a year. No government should ever help to increase the profits of an industry whose products kill people.

“It is hypocritical of the Government to support international agreements on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, while lining its pockets with tobacco industry profits.”

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[1] Recently the New Zealand Superannuation Fund has adopted the United Nations Ethical Investment Principles and the Global Compact, and ACC has indicated that it will disinvest from tobacco.

Those in support

Groups supportive of Maryan Street’s Bill include Te Hotu Manawa Māori, Te Reo Marama, the National Māori SIDS Unit, Te Kaunihera o nga Neehi Maori (National Council of Maori Nurses), Nga Ngaru Hauora O Aotearoa (national collective Hauora Maori Providers), Hapai Te Hauora Tapui, Public Health Association, Smokefree Coalition, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), National Heart Foundation, and Cancer Society of New Zealand.

Overwhelming support for the Bill comes from all universities concerned with health, New Zealand medical schools, and health academics and researchers. Those in support include: Professor Peter Joyce, Dean of the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University; Dr Charlotte Paul, Professor of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Otago Medical School; Professor Julian Crane, Professor Peter Crampton, Dr George Thomson and Dr Nick Wilson of the Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University; Professor Les Toop and Professor Ann Richardson, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Otago University; Professor Alistair Woodward, Head of the University of Auckland School of Population Health; Professor Neil Pearce of the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University; Papaarangi Reid, Professor of Māori Health at Auckland University; and Dr John F. Smith, Head of Health Promotion at AUT University.

TOBACCO FACTS

- Tobacco smoking kills around 5000 New Zealanders each year – from direct smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
- By the year 2030, tobacco use is likely to be the world’s leading cause of death and disability, killing more than 10 million people annually.
- Smoking causes deaths from lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, heart disease and stroke.
- Smoking causes one in four of all cancer deaths in New Zealand.
- Half of all continuing smokers will die from smoking – an average of 14 years early.
- When you smoke you inhale more than 4000 chemicals including acetone (paint stripper), ammonia (toilet cleaner), cyanide (rat killer), DDT (insecticide) and carbon monoxide (car exhaust fumes).
- Tobacco is the single biggest killer of Māori. It accounts for a third of all Māori deaths.
- Almost one in two Māori smoke, which compares with one in five for Europeans and others, and one in four for Pacific peoples.

ENDS

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