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January 24, 1996

The AMA, Tobacco, and the Public Health

JAMA. 1996;275(4):277. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530280028022

To the Editor.  —I applaud JAMA's publication of the Brown and Williamson documents.1 However, the Editorial omits one important subject—tobacco stock divestment by physicians. Many retirement plans invest in tobacco company stocks. For example, the College Retirement Equity Fund2 has consistently invested about 3% of its assets in tobacco company stocks.When our multispecialty medical clinic wanted to divest itself of tobacco stocks, our trustees and investment managers maintained that divesting was "imprudent social investing," prohibited by federal rules governing retirement funds.In response, we argued that tobacco company investment is unethical for physicians and health care providers because, despite "diversification," tobacco company profits still come primarily from the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Furthermore, many investment options are available, and prudent investment managers should be able to achieve a similar return without tobacco stocks.Finally, we believe investing to achieve a social goal (such