Michael Bloomberg Pledges Millions More for Global Fight Against Tobacco

March 22, 2012

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New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg has pledged an additional $220 million to the global fight against tobacco use, bringing his total commitment to more than $600 million.

Mayor Bloomberg made the announcement at the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Singapore, where public health leaders from around the world are gathered to intensify their efforts against tobacco use, the world’s number one cause of preventable death.

This gift, part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, will accelerate efforts to implement proven and cost-effective strategies to reduce tobacco use, focusing on low- and middle-income countries where 80 percent of the world’s smokers live.

The funding comes at a pivotal time, as the toll of tobacco around the world is climbing:  Tobacco-related deaths have nearly tripled in the past decade, and if current trends continue tobacco use will kill a billion people in this century, according to the new Tobacco Atlas.

The Tobacco Atlas estimates that the combined profits of the six leading tobacco companies was $35.1 billion in 2010 – equal to the combined profits of Coca-Cola, Microsoft and McDonald’s that year.  That means the industry realizes a profit of about $6,000 for every death caused by tobacco use.

Brazen industry moves to thwart public health initiatives raised the ire of World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan, who called the tobacco industry 'a ruthless and devious enemy'  that interferes with countries’ efforts to protect the health of their citizens.

 'The enemy, the tobacco industry, has changed its face and its tactics. The wolf is no longer in sheep’s clothing, and its teeth are bared,' Dr. Chan told the conference.

Dr. Chan cited industry legal challenges to tobacco-control policies, as well as its efforts to form joint 'government-industry committees,' which she likened to allowing 'foxes to look after your chickens.'

'Don’t fall into this trap!' she warned.

The Bloomberg Initiative is aiding countries in pushing back against the tobacco industry and improving health. Since the initiative began, effective tobacco-control policies have been implemented in at least 30 countries, covering 1.3 billion people and saving as many as 3.7 million lives.


Photo Credit: Photo of Mayor Michael Bloomberg courtesy of NYC.gov