$4million fund established to help countries take on tobacco industry earning in billions
GN Bureau | March 19, 2015
Smoking may cause 1 billion deaths this century while it claimed 10 million people in the last century. In the backdrop of such ominous facts, a $4million fund to help governments fight legal battles against the tobacco industry has been announced by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The fund, to which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also contributing, seeks to assist countries which are making slow progress curbing smoking. The US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will administer the fund.
There are concerns that the tobacco industry may resist new measures such as plain packaging. Australia and Uruguay are two of the countries where public health measures have been challenged by industry. The fund will give countries the technical support of legal experts to draw up legislation as well as defend court actions brought by tobacco companies. It is expected to grow as other donors join.
“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 Michael R Bloomberg. “We will stand with nations as they work to protect their populations against the deadly health effects of tobacco use.”
The tobacco industry's use of international trade agreements to threaten and prevent countries from passing tobacco control laws was unacceptable, Bloomberg said.
"This is not about trade," he said. "No one is a stronger supporter of capitalism and trade than I am. This is about sovereignty and whether a country has the right to set its own public health policies."
“Country leaders who are trying to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco should not be deterred by threats of costly legal challenges from huge tobacco companies,” said Bill Gates. “Australia won its first case, which sends a strong message. But smaller, developing countries don’t have the same resources. That’s why we are supporting the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund with Bloomberg Philanthropies.”
"Country leaders who are trying to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco should not be deterred by threats of costly legal challenges from huge tobacco companies," he said.
The 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health is currently on in Abu Dhabi.
A global report launched at the conference found there were 3.9 billion smokers aged 15 and over in WHO member states in 2010. By 2025, that number is predicted to grow to 5 billion if the present pace of tobacco control continues.
The tobacco industry has invoked trade agreements to counter anti-smoking measures – in Uruguay against graphic health warnings on packaging and in Australia against “plain” or unremarkable standardised packs.
According to the American Cancer Society and the World Lung Foundation's 2012 Tobacco Atlas, the combined profit of the world's six leading tobacco companies was $35.1 billion in 2010.
British American Tobacco, the world's second-largest cigarette maker, has said it will take action against Britain, which has a $29 billion tobacco industry.
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