Tobacco firms used to pay council pension as Suffolk loses almost £160 million to smoking every year

Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Tobacco firms are sill being used to grow Suffolk county Council’s pension fund - despite new figures showing smoking costs Suffolk almost £160 million a year.

Sandy Martin MP speaking at the Suffolk Chamber in Greater Ipswich Networking Brunch with Sandy Mart

Sandy Martin MP speaking at the Suffolk Chamber in Greater Ipswich Networking Brunch with Sandy Martin MP, held at Ip-City Centre, Ipswich - Credit: Archant

The council has come under fire for these investments in the past, most recently in June when it was revealed that money put into British American Tobacco had been moved into another tobacco company, Altria, with investments totalling over £16 million in BAT alone.

Only 15% of people in Suffolk are now smokers, but the cost of sick days, NHS treatment and even cigarette breaks all add up to the eye-watering figure.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said: “If people are investing their money they should be allowed to choose what is and is not an ethical investment.

”As a county councillor I led a debate on which the county council overwhelmingly voted to disinvest from tobacco companies - they have not done so.

“Either they are missing the point or choosing to ignore it.”

He added: “It’s very frustrating that people are not making the changes they need to be - if they had more integrity they would disinvest willingly.”

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Andrew Reid, chairman for the Suffolk Pension Fund committee, said: “We have been advised to be mindful of our fiduciary duty to our members.

“It is down to the discretion of the fund managers we employ how the fund is invested.”

Roughly half of the money spent on cigarettes goes to the Government from tobacco tax, but anti-smoking charity Action for Smoking and Health (ASH) are calling for an additional tax on tobacco products to fund more services to help people kick the habit

ASH’s estimates smoking costs Suffolk £98 million a year due to lost working days, both through smoking-related illness or dying under retirement age.

It also costs £20.7 million in social care annually for those living with chronic conditions and £40 million to the NHS from smoking-related admissions.

Cllr James Reeder, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health, said: “Suffolk residents can access support from One Life Suffolk, GPs or Pharmacies where a range of support offers can be tailored to meet the individual’s needs. It is important that people receive the right support when giving up smoking to help them develop the right skills to make a life-long change.”