Health insurers’ tobacco addication

Health insurers still remain

Addicted to tobacco stock


Harvard researchers, in a new study, have discovered that life and health insurance companies are still major investors in tobacco stocks, just as they were when an earlier study was issued more than a decade ago. Physicians for National called upon the insurers to divest. "The insurance industry has yet to kick the habit," a PNHP spokesperson said.

The new article on insurance company investments, published in the June 4 New England Journal of Medicine, documents that U.S., Canadian and U.K.-based insurance firms hold at least $4.4 billion of investments in companies whose subsidiaries produce cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and related products.

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco products currently contribute to the deaths of about 5.4 million people worldwide annually.  Tobacco use heightens the risk of stroke, heart attack, lung disease and cancer.

“Despite calls upon the insurance industry to get out of the tobacco business by physicians and others, insurers continue to put their profits above people’s health,” said Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, the lead author of the article. “It’s clear their top priority is making money, not safeguarding people’s well-being.”

For example, Sun Life Financial Inc., based in Toronto, sells life, health, disability and long-term care insurance. Yet it also owns slightly over $1 billion in stock in two tobacco companies, including $890 million in Philip Morris.

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