Aviva Insurance is getting out of the tobacco game

Divesting roughly £1bn in bonds and stocks...

Aviva has announced that it is abandoning its tobacco investments, as it joins a growing number of companies that are uncomfortable being associated with such products. 

The UK life insurance giant is divesting roughly £1 billion in stocks and bonds – according to FT, the equities have almost all been sold, while the bond investments will be allowed to run off.

The review of these investments began in early 2016.

This, however, relates only to investments on behalf of its own shareholders, with the company set to continue to invest in tobacco for third parties.

An Aviva spokesperson said:

"We have decided to stop investing in the tobacco sector and will divest over time. 

"We consider tobacco as 'harmful when used as intended', and have been reviewing our investment position for some time now." 

She confirmed that approximately 0.25% of Aviva's £450bn of managed assets – including third-party investments – was in tobacco at the end of last year.

Aviva's move follows French insurer AXA's decision to sell its €1.8 billion worth of assets in the tobacco industry in May 2016.

The company cited the impact of smoking on public health as its reason behind the major move.

Chief executive Thomas Buberl said at the time:

"With this divestment from tobacco, we are doing our share to support the efforts of governments around the world.

"This decision has a cost for us, but the case for divestment is clear: the human cost of tobacco is tragic; its economic cost is huge".

The company added that the cost of smoking to society is greater than that of alcohol or obesity, noting that tobacco kills six million people a year – a figure expected to rise to eight million (mostly in developing countries) by 2030.

AXA's move hailed as a "milestone" by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC).

Reinsurer SCOR made a similar divestment pledge last year,  while France's Covea and the Netherlands' Achmea are just two other tobacco-free insurers.