Senator Dr. Keith Swanick has welcomed a Government announcement to end the practice of public investments in tobacco companies.

In October, Senator Swanick received confirmation 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.

He brought a motion before Seanad Éireann this month calling on the Government to bring these investments to an end.  The motion was passed unanimously.

“This decision, while welcome, is long overdue.  Since I first raised this issue in the Seanad, more than two months ago, a staggering 1000 people in Ireland will have died from tobacco related diseases”, Senator Swanick explained.

“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 €500m per year. Department of Health data puts the average cost of the admission of a smoker, with a tobacco related disease, to hospital at €5,400.  In 2013 there were 31,000 such admissions – at a total cost of €170m. This does not include primary or GP care costs or other associated costs such as medication.

“The Government’s announcement to take action on this issue is most welcome.  Over the past number of months I have met with representatives from ASH Ireland, The Irish Cancer Society, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Royal College of Physicians and The Irish Heart Foundation and had drafted legislation to prohibit these investments.

“I am pleased that Minister Noonan has decided to take my concerns on board.  There can be no place for State investment in tobacco companies now or into the future. These investments flew in the face of the “Tobacco Free Ireland” plan, as well as the wider Government policy on health and public expenditure”.