'Sell tobacco shares' Nottinghamshire County Council urged

Nottinghamshire County Council's £36m investment in tobacco firms as part of its pension scheme has been criticised by a doctor.

Dr Greg Place, chairman of a committee which represents GPs in the county, said the authority should "publicly disinvest".

He said supporting the industry and promoting health were incompatible.

The council said the amount was 1% of the pension fund investments and it had to get the best return for its members.

'Justifying smoking'

Dr Place, chairman of the Nottinghamshire Local Medical Committee, said: "Smoking related disease is a big problem.

"I was very surprised to hear a major local player is basically investing in tobacco companies and to some extent justifying smoking.

"Nottinghamshire County Council should disinvest and send a firm message out about why it is doing so," said the Annesley Woodhouse GP.

The pension fund has investments in British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris International and Altria Group.

As well as the council's own employees, the pension fund looks after the pensions of Nottingham City Council and Nottingham Trent University, which runs a cancer research centre at its Clifton Campus.

Councillor Michael Cox, chairman of the Nottinghamshire Pension Committee, said: "The Nottinghamshire Pension Fund has over 110 contributing employers.

"Although the county council invests and manages the fund on behalf of these organisations, the fund is separate to the authority's other activities.

"The fund has a diverse range of investments, including shares, property, bonds and cash and does not screen stocks when making its investments but will take account of environmental, social and governance issues where these are likely to have an impact on returns."

In 2013 formal promotion of public health in England and Wales will be transferred to local authorities from the NHS.

One of the health targets of local councils will be to reduce the nation's smoking rates.

"The council need to be honest about the fact that they have made a mistake because smoking is bad for you," Dr Place said.

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