Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

University of Pennsylvania must end its investments in tobacco

Penn's Trustees will vote next month on a proposal to exclude tobacco company stocks from the university's portfolio. Many other top institutions did it long ago.

Recognizing that the products of tobacco companies pose enormous threats to public health, many universities, health centers, and foundations began divesting from tobacco stocks decades ago. Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, and Brown have all divested – Harvard as long ago as 1990. So also have Stanford, Michigan, the University of California system, and Johns Hopkins, among others. Conspicuously absent from this list has been Penn – and Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, which is the only medical school among the top five without a divestment policy.

The Trustees define "substantial social injury" as "the excessive or deliberate injurious impact on employees, consumers, and/or other individuals, or groups resulting directly from specific actions or inactions by a company."

Few entities so abundantly meet the Trustees' definition of companies that cause massive injurious impact as those that produce and market tobacco products. Investment in tobacco clearly runs counter to its own guidelines for ethical investing.

The tide against tobacco is indeed rising, and the time has come for the university to align its investments with its stated institutional goals, with the research agenda and the ethical position of so many of its faculty.

Read more about The Public's Health.