Legislation has been proposed by Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Health and Mental Health, Dr. Keith Swanick to bring an end to investment of taxpayer’s money in tobacco companies.
Under questioning by Senator Swanick in Seanad Éireann on 19th October, Minister of State Eoghan Murphy T.D. confirmed that the taxpayer, through the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) has equity holdings in three separate tobacco companies.
Senator Swanick’s Public Health (Prohibition of Tobacco Investments) Bill 2016 would make it illegal for the continuation of investments such as these and would ensure that no further investment in tobacco companies can take place with taxpayer’s money.
“a complete mockery”
Speaking about this Senator Keith Swanick said, “This is a shocking situation and it is not tenable for the Government to turn a blind eye to these investments in tobacco companies. It is incredible to believe that the state holds investment in tobacco companies and it makes a complete mockery of the stated objectives of a tobacco free Ireland by 2025, the cornerstone of ‘Tobacco Free Ireland’.
“Over one month ago I formally wrote to the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure asking that they immediately work to bring an end to this situation. In the month since I communicated to them, a staggering 500 people in Ireland will have died from tobacco related diseases. As of today I have yet to receive a comprehensive response. This lack of urgency on the part of the Government, led me to publish a draft piece of legislation in order to deal with the matter through legislation.”
“I’ve held hugely constructive dialogue with representatives from ASH Ireland, The Irish Cancer Society, The Irish Heart Foundation, The Royal College in Surgeons Ireland and The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and enjoy their overwhelming support that no public moneys should be contributing to the commercial viability of the tobacco industry or any individual tobacco companies.”
“Tobacco illness is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland and the estimated cost of smoking on the health care system is more than €500 million per year. This is made up of direct costs in three areas. These are hospital-based costs of €211 million, primary care costs amounting to an enormous sum of €256 million and domiciliary costs of €40 million. Department of Health data from three years ago show an average cost of €5,400 every time a smoker was admitted to hospital with a tobacco-related illness. In 2013 there were 31,000 such admissions at €5,400 per admission that equals a shocking €170 million. This does not include the primary or GP care costs and associated costs such as medication.”
“6,000 people will die in the next year from smoking related diseases”
“We all want to see the NTMA generate a significant income for the taxpayer through prudent and strategic investments. The strategic investment fund has a statutory mandate to invest on a commercial basis, and I fully acknowledge the independence of the NTMA in carrying out its important work. The long-term strategic investment of taxpayers’ money is something that can and should be done professionally and devoid of political interference. 6,000 people will die in the next year from smoking related diseases in Ireland and I struggle to understand how holding equity and debt instruments in such companies is in keeping with Tobacco Free Ireland, which set a target for Ireland to be tobacco free by 2025, as well as wider Government policy on health and public expenditure.”