Big investors warn against tobacco investment on World No Tobacco Day, but smoking in Europe is still stubbornly high

 
Lucy White
Axa, Calpers, Scor and AMP Capital support World No Tobacco Day
According to a European Commission survey, smoking in the EU has not reduced since 2014 (Source: Getty)

Today marks the passing of the 30th World No Tobacco Day, designed to encourage smokers to abstain for a day in the hope that they might quit.

Yet it seems the annual event is doing little to help people kick the habit, despite support from big investors such as Axa and Calpers who are using the day to encourage a reduction in tobacco investment.

According to a survey of EU citizens, published by the European Commission to coincide with World No Tobacco Day, there has been no decrease in the number of daily smokers since 2014 – and even an increase among 15- to 24-year-olds.

"The increase in youth smoking rates illustrates the urgency for member states to enforce the provisions of the Tobacco Products Directive, which forbid attractive cigarettes aimed at enticing young people," said EU commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis.

The directive, which came into force in May this year, forbids tobacco manufacturers from marketing products as flavoured and requires them to cover 65 per cent of the packaging in health warnings.

Yet the overall smoking rate in the EU has remained at 26 per cent since 2014 and has risen from 25 per cent to 29 per cent in people aged 15 to 24.

Smoking in the UK sits fairly well below the European average, with 17 per cent of the population taking a daily puff.

Greece, Bulgaria, France and Croatia all rank highly, with smoking rates in each country above 35 per cent. Yet in Sweden, only seven per cent of people will regularly smoke a tobacco product.

Read more: British American Tobacco's profit heats up as it looks to the vaping market

Axa, Calpers, Scor and AMP Capital are putting their weight behind the push to quit, sponsoring the world's first global investor statement on the subject.

It aims to “make visible the strong support within the financial community” for the World Health Organisation's (WHO) framework on tobacco control and encourage stakeholders to act against tobacco investment, Axa said.

Axa and AMP Capital divested from tobacco last year, while Calpers did so 17 years ago and has since widened its ban to include externally managed funds.

Smoking kills more than seven million people each year according to the WHO, which has coordinated World Tobacco Day since the first event in 1988, and costs households and taxpayers more than $1.4 trillion (£1.1 trillion) in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.

Related articles