Michael Bloomberg And Bill Gates Launch $4 Million Legal Fund To Fight Tobacco Industry

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Billionaire philanthropists Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates have launched a new $4 million fund to help developing countries fight off legal challenges from tobacco companies.

The Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund, announced Wednesday at a conference in Abu Dhabi, will help governments that pass tough anti-smoking laws defend against international trade suits and increase public awareness of legal threats from the tobacco industry.

Bloomberg and Gates number among the richest people on the planet on the 2015 FORBES World’s Billionaires List. Gates holds the top spot, with a net worth of $79.2 billion, and Bloomberg ranks 14th with $35.5 billion.

“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,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “We will stand with nations as they work to protect their populations against the deadly health effects of tobacco use.”

The former New York City mayor’s foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, has been helping Uruguay since 2010 to battle a lawsuit by Philip Morris International PM +0.86% challenging graphic health warnings on tobacco products. Australia is facing a similar lawsuit by Philip Morris and a challenge from the World Trade Organization.

The new legal fund is likely to expand as other donors contribute, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has pledged $600 million to fight smoking worldwide since 2007.

Today Mike Bloomberg also announced the latest round of winners for his foundation’s annual Awards for Global Tobacco Control, which honors organizations fighting tobacco use in developing countries. This year’s winners include the Brazilian government, the first country in the Americas to complete a national survey on adult tobacco use, and Regional Advocacy Life Center, a Ukrainian non-profit that helped pass countrywide legislation to curb smoking and tobacco advertising. Other winners hailed from Uruguay, Nepal, Russia and the Philippines.

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