New York: Taking head-on cigarette giants that are aggressively targeting developing countries, billionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg have jointly pledged $500 million for a massive anti-smoking campaign with special focus on India and China.
A world without tobacco “is a world in which people live longer and have happier lives,” Bloomberg, New York Mayor who has a fortune of $16 billion, said at a joint press conference with the Microsoft founder Gates.
Control global tobacco epidemic
They said the money would go to anti-smoking groups working with governments to curb the consumption of tobacco and related products, including World Health Organization (WHO) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The global tobacco market is expected to rise to $464 billion by 2012 and the campaign against “global tobacco epidemic” comes at a time when number of smokers in the US is decreasing and American multinationals are looking for markets for cigarettes abroad especially in the developing nations.
Bill and Malinda Foundation will donate $125 million to the campaign while Bloomberg will contribute $250 million, apart from the $125 million he pledged earlier.
India, China need to cut down number of smokers
Two most populous countries India and China need special attention, said Gates, who is worth $58 billion and stepped down as full time executive of Microsoft in June.
But China is more difficult as the government owns cigarette manufacturing companies and draws revenue from them, Bloomberg, who is a former smoker, added.
They called for raising taxes on tobacco and its products to make them out of the reach of the poor people, banning cigarette advertisement, creating smoke-free spaces and curbing exhibition of cigarette smoking heroes in movies as they tend to become role models for teenagers.