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CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigns after she purchased tobacco stock when head of health agency

'Dr Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests'

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Wednesday 31 January 2018 16:44 GMT
Ms Fitzgerald resigned following a report in 'Politico'
Ms Fitzgerald resigned following a report in 'Politico' (AP)

The head of America’s leading health protection agency has resigned after it was revealed she had bought shares in a tobacco company.

Brenda Fitzgerald, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), quit as the result of what officials said were “conflicts of interest that made it difficult to do her job”.

“Dr Fitzgerald owns certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director,” said Matt Lloyd, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Due to the nature of these financial interests, Dr Fitzgerald could not divest from them in a definitive time period.”

The resignation of Ms Fitzgerald, who had only been in the post a month, came a day after Politico reported she had bought shares in a company that produces tobacco, the major cause of preventable deaths in the US and something that that the CDC had long campaigned against.

“The tobacco industry spends billions of dollars each year on cigarette advertising and promotions,” the CDC says on its website. “Smoking costs the United States billions of dollars each year.”

As of 2015, around 36.5m Americans still smoked, despite repeated warnings that it causes cancer, the CDC reported.

The stock in Japan Tobacco was one of about a dozen new investments Ms Fitzgerald had made after she took over the job, according to documents obtained by the news site.

She had previously come under congressional scrutiny for being slow to divest from other, older investment that officials said posed potential conflicts of interest and prevented her from testifying before Congress.

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