Make it your business: Divest from tobacco
16 July 2020
Personal freedom is one of the foundations of our society. That said, every action has consequences, and when we look out for each other, everybody is safer.
This is particularly true for the tobacco industry. While the choice to smoke or not is in some ways a personal decision, the effects of the industry are widespread. From negatively impacting public health to capitalising off child labour, cigarettes do a lot more than just damage the lungs of smokers.
The good news? You can take a stand. Find out how tobacco affects the global community today and learn how you can make sure you’re part of the solution.
Your investments have the power to snap tobacco’s influence in half.
More than a personal decision
The truth is that this substance doesn’t just affect people who smoke. Passive smoking, littered cigarette butts and tobacco cultivation all have negative consequences for people around the world, regardless of whether they choose to smoke or not. In order to protect each other from harm, we all have to take part in collective efforts to address these challenges.
1. Passive smoking
Perhaps the most obvious way in which tobacco use affects non-smokers is in the form of passive smoking, otherwise known as second-hand smoke. This is the unfiltered smoke from a cigarette that is not inhaled by the smoker. It may be inhaled by people near a lit cigarette or by those who share a confined space or air system with smokers. According to information shared by the Department of Health, your risk of heart disease is between 25% and 30% higher if you live with a smoker.
2. Cigarette litter
Cigarette butts are a commonly littered item. They pollute waterways, are often eaten by wildlife and are nonbiodegradable. According to statistics cited by the Western Australian Government and the Keep Australia Beautiful Campaign, seven billion cigarette butts are littered across the country each year. Improperly disposing of lit cigarettes can also increase the risk of bushfires.
3. Tobacco cultivation
A 2018 report from The Guardian found that, in impoverished regions around the world, child labour was on the rise in tobacco supply chains. In particular, the report noted children working in tobacco fields in Mexico, Indonesia and Malawi.
It’s true that tobacco use is an individual choice, but vulnerable people and marginalised communities are bearing the brunt of the consequences. At the same time, nicotine addiction prevents many people from quitting who would otherwise choose to do so.
Afflicted communities coping with nicotine addiction
When you carefully examine which communities are most affected by tobacco use and consider how tough it is to quit, it becomes more difficult to argue that smoking is simply a matter of personal choice. Instead, this is a shared concern for all of us.
According to data culled from the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Surveys and shared by the National Cancer Control Indicators (NCCI), declining overall smoking rates meant that, by 2018, just 13.8% of Australian adults were daily smokers. While it’s not zero, that’s still one of the best rates globally!
The numbers look less promising, however, when you segment the data to account for different demographics. For example, the percentage of adult smokers was about 20% for areas with lower socioeconomic status and in remote regions.
Even worse, by 2015, the most recent year for which there are statistics available through the NCCI, 40.6% of the adult Indigenous population were daily smokers.
It’s true that it’s up to every individual to choose whether or not they want to smoke, but the facts are clear. Members of some marginalised communities are disproportionately affected by the use of this harmful, addictive substance.
Why? Because there’s money to be made, but maybe not for long.
Find out if your super invests in tobacco farming, and take action.
Good business sense: Quit the industry
The tobacco industry is a business. That’s why many organisations invest in it.
However, if promoting public health wasn’t reason enough to divest, there are financial reasons, too. A 2018 report from Tobacco Free Portfolios noted that, despite the overall positive market performance that year, tobacco stocks struggled. Because of outside pressure on this industry, it might be a less attractive investment in the years to come.
If you’re looking for a way to maximise your super, responsible investing should be one of your highest priorities.
Find out where your money is going
Here’s where you come in.
Many super funds invest in tobacco. Your fund might be one of them without you even knowing it. Fortunately, Tobacco Free Portfolios has created a Stamp of Approval program to provide greater transparency for consumers. The organisation establishes tobacco-free standards, accepts applications from potential member institutions and provides them with a seal to help promote consumer confidence.
Look for the stamp on your super fund’s website. If you don’t see one, think about switching to a verified, tobacco-free super. LGS is a proud supporter of this movement, and we’ve been leading the charge since 2001 when we became the first Australian super fund to quit investing in tobacco.
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