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Study: Insurers Hold Hundreds Of Millions In Tobacco Stocks

This article is more than 11 years old.

Several U.S. insurance companies are major investors in tobacco firms, and Harvard researchers say that shows that the insurance industry puts profits above health.

The insurers, including MassMutual in Springfield, collectively own hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco stocks, even as many of them offer health, life, disability and long-term care insurance to consumers. Harvard's Steffie Woolhandler co-authored the new study and says the insurers should divest.

"Anyone who has anything to do with health care has an obligation to oppose tobacco," says Woolhandler, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance. "The reason the insurance industry doesn't do it is that they're in business to make money. The findings of these insurance companies owning so much tobacco stock is really proof of that."

Woolhandler says divestment is especially important since the insurance industry is playing a major role in national health reform.

MassMutual says its tobacco holdings represent less than one-thousandth of 1 percent of its overall investments.

The study appears in the June 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

This program aired on June 4, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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