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Photo via Flickr/Lindsay Buckley of Michael Bloomberg
Photo via Flickr/Lindsay Buckley of Michael Bloomberg

It’s no secret that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hates cigarettes. He passed some of the most aggressive laws and tax increases to curtail smoking in NYC.

Now Bill Gates is joining Bloomberg to take the fight against cigarettes global. Their new initiative will help fund the fight against Big Tobacco in low- to middle-income countries worldwide.

Called the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund, it will initially be backed by $4 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition to funding, the group will use pro bono or highly discounted work of lawyers and other experts to help its fight.

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Bill Gates

“We are at a critical moment in the global effort to reduce tobacco use, because the significant gains we have seen are at risk of being undermined by the tobacco industry’s use of trade agreements and litigation,” said Bloomberg in a statement. “We will stand with nations as they work to protect their populations against the deadly health effects of tobacco use.”

It’s no secret that losing smokers in Western nations has made Big Tobacco look elsewhere, i.e., mostly the developing world to find new customers. The World Health Organization reports that more than 5 million people are killed from tobacco use every year, and that nearly 80 percent of the world’s billion smokers live in low-to-middle-income countries.

According to the Bloomberg statement, the announcement “comes as the tobacco industry ramps up its use of international trade agreements to slow health gains made by countries. For example, the industry is threatening strong tobacco control laws put in place by countries like Uruguay and Australia and by intimidating other countries.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies has spent about $600 million since 2007 to combat smoking worldwide, using a variety of methods that include higher taxes, banning advertising and creating smoke-free public spaces.

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