Revealed: cancer scientists’ pensions invested in tobacco

Photo Credit Fried Dough Flickr
Photo Credit Fried Dough Flickr



Scientists funded by Cancer Research UK who spend their lives hunting for cures for the disease are among thousands of academics whose pensions are invested in the tobacco industry, the Guardian can reveal.

The latest annual report for the university staff’s pension fund shows it had £211m invested in British American Tobacco in the year to 31 March 2015 – its fifth biggest listed equities holding.

The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) – the official name for the fund for university academics and staff – was worth £49bn in 2015. The BAT holding is not the only controversial investment; its biggest holding was £344m in Royal Dutch Shell.

But the tobacco investment will come as a shock to many researchers, academics and staff. One scientist, who is employed by a leading university but whose post is funded by CRUK, was horrified to learn that her money was being invested in this way.

“This means that, even if only indirectly through our time and labour, CRUK money is being invested in growing and supporting the tobacco industry,” she told the Guardian. “The idea that we all have our pension invested in BAT is outrageous.

“All the work of this institute is done under the guidance of CRUK, and we are, quite rightly, regularly reviewed to ensure that CRUK money is being spent effectively and efficiently in the global fight against cancer. How can this possibly be in line with the fact that most of us will retire comfortably on money earned from tobacco investments?”