Four major global investors reportedly are pressuring their peers to publicly back efforts to curb the tobacco industry.
Axa, Calpers, Scor and AMP Capital want other investors to sign a statement supporting “global action against the tobacco epidemic and its significant cost to society and development,” the Financial Times reported.
The statement is due to be published on World Tobacco Day on May 31, the FT reported.
“All four investment groups have sold, or are selling, their investments in the industry. Calpers, the US pension fund, was first out of the blocks in 2000, while Axa announced last May that it would sell its tobacco shares and let its bond holdings run off,” the FT reported.
About $4 billion of tobacco investments have been divested by financial institutions in seven countries over the past year, the FT cited Tobacco Free Portfolios, a pressure group.
“There is real momentum,” Alice Steenland, Axa’s head of corporate responsibility, told the FT. “A lot of financial actors divested many years ago but had not announced it. That’s why we’re launching the statement. Talking about it makes a huge difference as it encourages governments to take action.”
The statement that the quartet want others to sign says that: “We in the investment community are becoming increasingly aware of the crucial important role we can play in helping to address the health and societal impacts of tobacco.”
“The more investors speak up, the more governments will feel empowered to take more steps,” Steenland told the FT.
For its part, Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company, said price increases and new technologies failed to offset a decline in demand for cigarettes, Bloomberg reported.
The company, which sells Marlboro and other brands outside the U.S., posted first-quarter earnings of 98 cents a share, excluding some items. Analysts had projected $1.03 on average.
The results signal that Philip Morris has a long road ahead in becoming a next-generation tobacco business. The New York-based company has invested more than $3 billion in so-called reduced-risk products to replace cigarettes, but the shift will take time to pay off.
Meanwhile, researchers said the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco cigarettes sold in Britain from next month could cut the number of smokers in the country by another 300,000 within a year,
Based on observational evidence and a review of more than 50 experimental studies on the potential impact of plain packs, experts from the Cochrane Review said they appear to diminish the appeal of tobacco and help reduce smoking prevalence, Reuters reported.
Australia was the first country in the world to implement standardized packaging of tobacco products, in December 2012, and data collected since then suggest the new measure led to an extra 0.5 percent a year decline in the number of smokers there.
(Newsmax wires services the Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report).
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