New drive to stop thousands in Norfolk smoking - but MP criticises pension millions invested with tobacco companies

A fresh drive to stamp out smoking in Norfolk is to be launched, but Norfolk Pension Fund's investme

A fresh drive to stamp out smoking in Norfolk is to be launched, but Norfolk Pension Fund's investments in tobacco companies have been questioned. Pic: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A new drive, to get thousands of people in Norfolk to give up smoking, is to be launched - but a key player in the campaign still has millions of pounds of its pension fund tied up in tobacco companies.

The Norfolk Tobacco Control Alliance, of which Norfolk County Council is a member, has helped thousands of smokers to stub it out.

And a fresh strategy - partly funded through £2m from the county council - is about to be launched to target the hardened smokers.

It also aims to 'turn off the tap' of the 2,861 children in Norfolk each year who pick up the habit.

Targets include cutting the number of people in Norfolk who smoke, from the 103,140 in 2014 to 83,806 in 2020.

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Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk's director of public health, said: 'By making every contact count and signposting smokers to quit through brief interventions, we can make Norfolk a better place for our future generations and support us in achieving our vision to make smoking history in Norfolk.'

But despite Norfolk County Council's public health role, the Norfolk Pension Fund still has some £45m invested in tobacco companies.

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A county council spokeswoman said: 'The public health Tobacco Control Strategy being proposed is about delivering tangible, practical – often face to face - interventions on the front line.

'Separately, the Norfolk Pension committee is charged with overseeing strategies to obtain the best return on investment for Norfolk Pension Fund members and employers, while maintaining an appropriate level of risk.'

But former health minister Norman Lamb, North Norfolk MP, said: 'I totally support the public health work to combat smoking. It is one of the main reasons why people with mental ill health die 15 to 20 years sooner than other people.

'But it does put the spotlight on the ludicrous situation of investment in tobacco companies by bodies charged with public health duties.

'It must be possible to achieve a good return on investment based on ethical considerations and avoiding investment in tobacco companies.'

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