New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged $125 million of his own fortune to aid the anti-smoking effort with a new campaign targeting tobacco use worldwide.
The former smoker announced his efforts August 15 - an unusual move, as he normally doesn't announce his contributions. The money will be distributed over two years to existing organizations.
According to AP, the money will be used for programs to help smokers quit, education campaigns to keep kids from starting, to facilitate smoking bans and higher taxes nationwide, and to initiate a system that tracks global tobacco use.
Bloomberg is in his final term as mayor and has repeatedly said that he won't run for President in 2008. Yet, there has been much media speculation that his very public philanthropy efforts are to better his image for the White House race.
Why does it matter?
Bloomberg's ongoing battle against tobacco creates great opportunities for organizations wanting to bring more attention to the issues of smoking and health. "This gift will serve as a catalyst to anti-smoking efforts, and it's much needed in the fight against the tobacco industry," says Joseph Martyak, EVP of marketing communications and public policy for the American Legacy Foundation, creator of the Truth anti-tobacco campaign.
Martyak adds that while Bloomberg's gift is enormously generous, it is small compared with the large effort Big Tobacco has put into the advertising and marketing of its brands.
And as more cities and states enact smoking bans, Bloomberg's clampdown on the habit in New York is the kind of precedent that helps other smoking opponents make their case.
1 In March 2006, Utah became the 12th state in the country to ban smoking in bars. However, most states have bans on smoking on a city-by-city basis.
2 New York City in March 2003 banned smoking in all restaurants, food-service establishments, and bars. The state followed suit in July 2003 with a ban on smoking in all workplaces, bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, pool halls, and company cars.
3 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), if the current smoking trend continues, smoking will kill one in six people by 2030.
4 Researchers with the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan found that smoking among teens declined after the tobacco settlement efforts in the Big Tobacco cases. This decrease, researchers say, was due to increased public debate over the adverse affects of smoking.
5 According to the American Legacy Foundation, there were approximately 300,000 fewer youth smokers in 2002 as a result of the Truth anti-smoking campaign.