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Health Insurance Firms Hold Billions in Tobacco Investments

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Health and life insurance firms in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom hold at least $4.4 billion in investments in companies that manufacture tobacco products, according to an article in the June 4, 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Physorg.com reported June 3 that researchers from the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard School of Medicine found that insurance companies continue to invest in tobacco companies; the same group of researchers published an article in 1995 that reported similar results.

“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 lead author J. Wesley Boyd. “It's clear their top priority is making money, not safeguarding people's well-being.”

The researchers studied a database of industrial, banking and insurance companies, which looks at Securities and Exchange Commission fillings and reports from news sources.

“Although investing in tobacco while selling life or health insurance may seem self-defeating, insurance firms have figured out ways to profit from both,” the authors said. “Insurers exclude smokers from coverage or, more commonly, charge them higher premiums. Insurers profit — and smokers lose — twice over.”

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