Harvard Physicians Claim Insurers Profiting from Tobacco

It turns out that the very life insurance companies that charge an arm and a leg to customers for smoking have a vested interest in tobacco companies. Some Harvard physicians unearthed proof that major insurers, both in the United States and overseas,own billions of dollars in tobacco-industry stocks. Just when we thought we knew who we were handing our money over to – and essentially being judged by.

The findings have been published in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. In the report, thephysicians argue that while they understand the companies wanting to charge more for individuals who they feel have a longer life expectancy, it’s a bit hypocritical to play both sides of the fence. By owning so much in tobacco stocks, the companies profit substantially from their clients’ tobacco use twice – with higher premiums, and their cigarette consumption.

A spokesperson from Prudential, one of the insurance companies listed in the report, has acknowledged that the figures are, for the most part, accurate. However, other insurers have strongly disputed the claims in the report, instead focusing on places they want the public to know their money is being distributed to.

With all but one company denying any direct ties to the tobacco industry, questions have begun to surface about the validity of the report. Additionally, it has been found that all of the insurers sell mutual funds, which means that some of their exposure to tobacco stocks would stem from client assets in index funds.

It just doesn’t seem that the discrepancies between the stories should be so broad. So who’s telling the truth? It’sno secret that major companies have been good about sweeping certain details under elaborate rugs. So at the moment, we will have to rest with the “he said, she said” clause and just see what happens as more of the story unfolds.