New Brunswick - Tobacco Control/Tobacco Investment Conflicting interests..

June 17, 2009 - While one branch of the New Brunswick(#3) government has been suing large tobacco companies, another branch has $21 million invested in them, investment records show.

The records released last week by the New Brunswick Investment Management Corp. show heavy investments in Imperial Tobacco, Rothman's, British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, its parent company Altria Group and R.J. Reynolds. The government pension funds have also invested in other tobacco companies, but those are not part of the lawsuit.

The provincial government agency that manages the pension funds of public servants, teachers and judges, had holdings in those companies worth about $21.2 million on March 31, 2008.

Those same companies are all targets in a lawsuit launched in December 2006 by the province. New Brunswick alleges the companies failed to warn consumers of the dangers of smoking, marketed light cigarettes as safe and targeted children in their advertising campaigns. It argues those actions all led to widespread health problems and public medical costs for those who began smoking.

Organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Medical Association, and Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada question the appropriateness of public pension investments in tobacco interests. Ellen Snider, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick branch of the Canadian Cancer Society: "I don't think the government has any choice but to take a close look at this and to consider the possibility that absolutely those [investments] have to be pulled, absolutely."

Reference: N.B. pensions have $21M in tobacco companies, CBC News, 6/16/2009.

Click on image to enlarge, Coat of Arms Canadian Province of New Brunswick..