PHYSICIANS URGE INSURERS TO “KICK THE HABIT”
Despite calls to divest, insurers continue to be major shareholders in tobacco firms. Prudential has actually increased its stock holdings in tobacco nearly 400% — to $892 million — in the last 4 years, according to findings published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. “Insurance Firms’ and Mutual Funds’ Tobacco Habit,” by three researchers at Harvard, also finds that the popular mutual fund Fidelity has major stock holdings in tobacco, including over $6.6 billion of Philip Morris stock — 8% of the entire company.
“A health insurer that buys tobacco stocks cares more about profits than the health of its patients,” said lead author Dr. Wesley Boyd. “Teachers, physicians, and those who invest their savings in mutual funds are unwitting accomplices in causing 400,000 tobacco deaths a year.”
Insurers’ tobacco holdings include:
Cigna, the giant HMO firm, owns over $38 million in Philip Morris stocks and $4 million in Loews stocks.
MetLife’s stockholdings total $55 million in Philip Morris and almost $7 million in Loews.
Prudential Insurance owns $435 million of Philip Morris, nearly $320 million of Loews stock, and $137 million of RJ Reynolds.
Mutual funds’ tobacco holdings include:
Fidelity owns $6.6 billion of Philip Morris stock and $23 million of RJ Reynolds.
Vanguard owns stock in all 4 major tobacco companies, including over $1.1 billion in Philip Morris and over $100 million in Loews.
TIAA-CREF also owns stock in all 4 companies, holding $732 million worth of Philip Morris stock and over $37 million worth of Loews stock.
Sanford Bernstein stockholdings amounted to $912 million of Philip Morris and over $137.3 million of RJ Reynolds.
“It’s time to push insurers and mutual funds to kick their deadly habit,” said Dr. Quentin Young, National Coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. “Stronger physician and public protest and yes, government action against tobacco in the form of higher taxes and bans on marketing and exports, is needed.”