The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg have announced a combined pledge of $500 million to support efforts to combat the global tobacco epidemic by helping governments in developing countries implement proven anti-tobacco policies and increase their funding for tobacco control.
Bloomberg expanded an initial $125 million commitment made through the Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use with an additional four-year, $250 million commitment, while the Gates Foundation will invest $125 million over five years, including a $24 million grant to the Bloomberg initiative, to fight the epidemic. The foundation also will support complementary efforts to reduce high rates of tobacco use in countries such as China and India, as well as help prevent tobacco use from taking root in Africa.
The Bloomberg initiative supports efforts to increase tobacco taxes, change the image of tobacco, protect nonsmokers from exposure to other people's smoke, and help people quit. It also supports a rigorous tobacco-use and policy-monitoring system as well as public sector education and advocacy efforts. With the Gates funding, the initiative intends to accelerate implementation of proven tobacco-control strategies and build economic evidence to support tobacco control over the next two years. Unless action is taken, as many as a billion people — more than two-thirds in the developing world — could die from tobacco-caused illnesses in this century.
"Tobacco-caused diseases have emerged as one of the greatest health challenges facing developing countries," said Bill Gates. "The good news is, we know what it takes to save millions of lives, and where efforts exist, they are working."