Johns Hopkins University, home to one of the nation's most prestigious medical schools, decided Friday to sell its holdings in tobacco companies, saying the investments undermine its efforts to fight cancer.
"The holding of tobacco stocks is incompatible with the university's mission to disseminate information on the treatment and prevention of disease and illness," the trustees said in a statement after the unanimous vote.Hopkins will sell stock and bonds valued at $5.3 million from four companies with tobacco holdings, university spokesman Dennis O'Shea said. He declined to identify the companies, saying the aim was not to penalize them.
Only a handful of other U.S. campuses have shunned tobacco company stocks, including Harvard and the City University of New York.
California's health chief last month urged two large pension funds and several universities, including Stanford and the University of California, to unload their tobacco company holdings. Those holdings are worth at least $546 million.
The Tobacco Institute had no comment on the decision by Johns Hopkins, said Brennan Dawson, spokeswoman for the industry's leading trade group.
Philip Morris Cos., which was said to be one of the companies targeted by the university, had lobbied against the move.
In a statement Friday, the tobacco giant said, "Philip Morris believes that investment decisions by fiduciaries should reflect the judgment of a prudent investor and should not be based on issues of social policy."
Philip Morris stock returned an average of 30 percent to shareholders in the past 10 years, the company noted.
About 1.5 percent of the university's $700 million portfolio is in companies that sell tobacco products, said Carl A. Latkin, a postdoctoral student on a faculty-student committee that brought the issue before the trustees last April.
The vote by 49 Hopkins trustees came hours before William C. Richardson was installed as university president.