tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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Insurance industry not shy about investing in fast food

Some major insurers, including Newark-based Prudential, have invested heavily in fast-food companies, according to a new analysis Junk foodby Harvard University researchers.

Using securities filings and investment data, the study found that as of June 2009, 11 major insurers held almost $1.9 billion in five fast-food stocks. The authors question why firms that life and health insurance policies would support consumption of products linked to obesity and cardiovascular disease.

“Our data illustrate the extent to which the insurance industry seeks to turn a profit above all else,” said Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, a senior author of the study.

“Safeguarding people’s health and well-being take a back seat to making money,” said Boyd, who like the rest of the authors is based at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School.

Over the past decade, Boyd and some of the other researchers have tracked the insurance industry’s even greater investments in tobacco products. In June 2009, they found the insurers held $4.4 billion in tobacco investments.

But the researchers’ characterizations overlook some key points about the nature of the investments, said Theresa Miller, Prudential vice president for global communications.

jtchart041510_opt”Many of the investments mentioned in the study are invested through passive indexed funds, which make it difficult to verify the accuracy of the reported data,” she said in a statement. “Also, it is important to note that a large portion of the assets within the study are managed on behalf of third-party, external clients and are not within Prudential’s own portfolio.”

The company is “kind of hampered” by its inability to discuss these investments in detail, Miller said. But as a principle, she said, Prudential follows “the goal of what investing should be,” providing strong returns to individual and institutional clients while managing risk.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, acknowledged that “unlike tobacco, which is inarguably harmful and addictive, fast food can be consumed responsibly.”

But the authors, who are also associated with Physicians for a National Health Program, cited a number of studies highlighting problems with a fast-food diet, including its generally “low nutritional value.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Arun Mohan, noted the findings come as a new national health insurance law will funnel millions of new consumers to the insurers.

“These data raise questions about the opening on vast new markets for private insurers at public expense,” he said.

Under the circumstances, the insurance companies have two “ethical options,” according to the study. One would be to divest themselves of holdings “that have a clearly negative impact on public health.”

The other would be to use their position as major stockholders to push fast-food outlets “to improve the nutritional quality of their products, reduce calorie density, serve smaller portions, and change marketing practices,” according to the report.

The researchers cited Northwestern Mutual as the leading fast-food investor among the companies study. It holds $422.2 million in fast-food investments. Like most of the companies, its major holdings are in McDonald’s.

ING of The Netherlands is second with $406.1 million, followed by Massachusetts Mutual, $366.5 million. Prudential Financial and its investors rank fourth, with $355.3 million, including $197.2 million in McDonald’s, $80.5 million in Yum! Brands, $43.7 million in Burger King and $34.1 million in Jack in the Box.

BY JOE TYRRELL, 15 April 2010

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