I ask this question in response to your front-page report ("Councils warned over tobacco investments", The Herald, January 28), and leader comment, ("Ethics and the council pension"). Pulling funds from the tobacco companies is not quite as simple, or a matter of ethical halo-polishing, as might be made out.
The only way many developing countries can export for dollar earnings is through growing tobacco. They need those dollar earnings mainly to buy much-needed drugs to help fight the pandemic of Aids and the growing pandemic of malaria as well as other mutating diseases.
Are organisations such as Action on Smoking Health, local authorities, the Scottish Government and others going to replace lost dollar income to those countries that desperately need it and help them find other ways to earn hard currency?
As someone who has been engaged with developing Aids awareness since 2000 and who has been a consultant and delegate at conferences about HIV, I can say that unless there is a means to get around this problem, the demonising of tobacco will cause more poverty, more deaths, and more misery in the world.
But because these problems are distant from this country, perhaps we just forget about them and soak ourselves in a warm bath of self-congratulation about our ethics.
I HAVE no disagreement with disinvestment from tobacco, but why stop there? We should also be prepared to disinvest from alcohol. I determine no ethical difference between an Afghan farmer growing poppies for heroin and a Scottish farmer growing barley for alcohol. If challenged, both would claim economic need.
I practised medicine in Glasgow Royal Infirmary for more than 30 years. As I sifted the medical issues of patients, I had greater awareness of problems caused by alcohol than problems caused by heroin; which is not to say that heroin was not causing problems but, in proportion, alcohol was and remains a greater menace.
The Scottish Government requires a broader view of ethical and social considerations. The current view marries hypocrisy with expediency and incompetence.
Dr William Durward,
20 South Erskine Park,