$500 Million Is Offered in Fight Against Tobacco

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg testifies on Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 17, 2008, before the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on mayor and superintendent partnerships in education: Closing the Achievement Gap. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg testifies on Capitol Hill, Thursday, July 17, 2008, before the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on mayor and superintendent partnerships in education: Closing the Achievement Gap. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Susan Walsh - AP)

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By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 24, 2008

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates said yesterday that they will together provide $500 million to fight tobacco use around the world, especially in developing countries where smoking rates are rising.

Bloomberg has already given $125 million to the cause and will provide $250 million more. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it will spend $125 million over five years, including a $24 million grant to the Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use that Bloomberg created in 2005.

"I believe a world in which everyone is aware of the destructiveness of tobacco and empowered to avoid it is within reach," Bloomberg said at an announcement in New York. "We just have to imagine it and then demand it."

It was the first public event Gates attended since he left Microsoft and turned his attention full time to philanthropic activities. He also said he was happy to defer to Bloomberg's leadership in the anti-tobacco campaign.

"We said, 'Let's design our work to be complementary to this,' " he told the audience at an elaborately orchestrated event that included interviews with both men by PBS television journalist Charlie Rose.

Bloomberg, who made a fortune from the financial information company he founded, has made limiting public smoking and easy access to smoking-cessation services high priorities since his first days as New York's mayor. He said yesterday that during his administration, the city's rate of smoking has fallen 22 percent, and smoking by teenagers more than 50 percent.

In 2005, his foundation helped pay for a survey of smoking prevalence as well as tobacco control measures and smoking-cessation programs in 179 countries.

The report was published in February as part of a global anti-smoking campaign called MPOWER. The letters stand for monitoring (tobacco use), protecting (people by enforcing smoke-free laws), offering (smokers treatment), warning (of tobacco's hazards), enforcing (advertising bans) and raising (taxes on tobacco).

India and China are places where tobacco control is especially needed, the philanthropists said.

Gates noted that in China, 67 percent of men and more than half of doctors smoke. He said he hopes anti-smoking efforts will prevent Africa -- where about 20 percent of men smoke -- from suffering the high rates that European and American countries once did and many Asian countries do now.


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