Abu Dhabi: Billionaire philanthropists Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates launched a joint fund in Abu Dhabi Wednesday to help developing countries pass tobacco-control laws in their legal battle with industry giants.
The Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund, backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aims "to combat the tobacco industry's use of international trade agreements to threaten and prevent countries from passing strong tobacco-control laws," its creators say.
"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 former New York mayor Bloomberg.
"We will stand with nations as they work to protect their populations against the deadly health effects of tobacco use."
The announcement was made on the second day of the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health.
The World Health Organization has warned that although smoker numbers are declining in many parts of the world, upward trends in African and Mediterranean countries mean the global total will not change much during the next decade.
About 80 per cent of the world's one billion smokers, it says, live in low- and middle-income countries.
Bloomberg today granted governments and NGOs in Brazil, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Ukraine and Uruguay his Philanthropies Awards for Global Tobacco Control for "significant strides" they have made in implementing tobacco control policies.
Uruguay was the first country in Latin America to ban smoking in public spaces, a measure it enacted in 2006.
Cigarette packs carry graphic pictures of cancer patients to warn smokers of the dangers, tobacco firms are forbidden from using marketing terms such as "light" or "mild," and cigarette ads are banned from television, radio and newspapers.
Its crackdown has prompted industry giant Philip Morris to hit back by suing Uruguay for USD 25 million at the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes in 2010, alleging the country had violated treaties by devaluing its trademarks and investments.