A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that major U.S., Canadian and British life and health insurance are investing billions of dollars in tobacco company stock, Agence France-Presse reported.

"Despite calls upon the insurance industry to get out of the tobacco business by physicians and others, insurers continue to put their profits above people's health," said Wesley Boyd, the study’s lead author and a faculty member of Harvard Medical School. “It’s clear their top priority is making money, not safe-guarding people’s well-being.”

Tobacco use not only leads to health problems like lung cancer, pulmonary illness and heart disease, but is the leading cause of preventable deaths, according to U.S. and world health officials.

The study highlights U.S. insurance company Prudential Financial Inc., who has $246.3 million dollars invested between three tobacco companies, including Reynolds America and Philip Morris.

Click here to read about other insurance companies listed in the study (subscription required).

Click here to read more on this story from the AFP.