Insurers have found a way of profiting from tobacco and health insurance, found a study

Major health insurers are investing billions of dollars into tobacco companies, reported the Dow Jones news service.

Quoting a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dow Jones revealed that at least $4.4bn in insurance company profits are being invested in companies whose affiliates produce cigarettes and tobacco products.

‘Insurers continue to put their profits above people's health,’ Wesley Boyd, the study’s lead author told Dow Jones.

According to the World Health Organisation tobacco is considered the leading cause of lung cancer and heart disease and it is a contributing factor in 5.4m deaths a year.

‘Although investing in tobacco while selling life or health insurance may seem self-defeating, insurance firms have figured out ways to profit from both,’ Boyd continued.

Health insurers exclude smokers from coverage or charge them higher premiums.

The study found that US insurer Prudential Financial Inc. has $264.3m in three large tobacco companies.