Norway divests $2 billion from tobacco companies

03 Apr 2009

Today, the Norwegian Government announced that it will divest its funds from all companies which take more than five percent of their profits from tobacco production.

The Norwegian government pension fund, Global, which according to is considered to be the world’s second largest pension fund, has till recently held huge interests in the tobacco industry.


The Norwegian Minister of Finance, Ms Kristin Halvorsen, today announced that Norway will divest USD 2.1 billion which is currently invested in the tobacco industryand replace this with other stocks. A debate over categorical divestment oftobacco companies from the state-owned government pension fund has been goingon in Norwaysince 2004 when ethical guidelines were introduced for the fund.

Tobacco control activists from a number ofnational non-governmental organisations have rallied the politicians since theguidelines were introduced, arguing that the investments are neither morallyviable nor economically sensible.

“We are very proud to have taken part in movingtobacco control one step further toward halting the death toll from tobacco,” said the Secretary General of the Norwegian Cancer Society,  Ms Anne Lise Ryel.“By divesting from tobacco stocks our politicians have shown clearly and demonstrably that they prioritize public health and are willing to stand up and fight the detrimental health consequences caused by tobacco worldwide.”

According to WHO tobacco is the biggest preventable cause of disease globally, with an annual death toll of 5.4 million. This number is expected to rise to eight million a year by 2030 unless urgent action is taken. Currently 70 percent of deaths take place in the developing world.

“The significant point about divestment is itsflow on effect: we fight back at an industry which draws its enormous profits from very cynical marketing tactics and unethical practises in countries without the capacity to introduce strict regulations,” said Ms. Ryel. “The tobacco industry is exploiting vulnerable populations in developing countries to fill their own pockets. Norway today has taken clear action to show that it wants no part in this practise.”

The newly released guidelines for WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), currently ratified by 164 countries worldwide, clearly states that governments should divest all holdings in tobacco companies in order to keep public health interests apart from economic influence.

“As far as we know Norway is the first country to follow the recommendation set out by WHO but we are expecting this to set an important precedence to be followed by other governments,” said Laurent Huber, Director of the Framework Convention Alliance. “We are aware that countries like Holland and Denmark also have big state-owned pension funds which are not consistent with the recent guidelines released on industry interference. We call on those governments to step up and follow the lead taken by Norway today,” he said.


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