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Billionaires Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Boost Fight to Drive Cigarettes Out of Poor Countries

Tobacco use kills more than 5 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization, and some 80 percent of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in low- to middle-income countries.

Michael Bloomberg,   Bill Gates,

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates have created a new fund to support the efforts of poor countries to fight legal battles against tobacco companies, AP reported.

The new fund will be administered by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Tobacco use kills more than 5 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization, and some 80 percent of the world’s 1 billion smokers live in low- to middle-income countries.

The Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund received $4 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it was announced Wednesday at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The fund will continue to grow as new donors come on board, and paid efforts will be combined with pro bono contributions from lawyers and experts.

Poor and less poor countries, like Uruguay and Australia, have been doing war with the tobacco companies, most notably Philip Morris International, over their attempts to legally require graphic health warning labels on cigarette packages, or using blank packaging, without logos.

Tobacco companies claim these policies violate international trade agreements and World Trade Organization rules.

“We think most of these countries will win these battles but they have to be able to afford some lawyers that have experience in litigating to win, ” Bloomberg told reporters. “We don’t think a government should have to choose between investing in its peoples’ future or fighting lawsuits and we think with the right resources they can do both.”

The new fund is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ $600 million commitment to fighting tobacco use worldwide since 2007, helping government design and impose tobacco-control policies—increasing taxes, creating smoke-free public places and banning tobacco advertising.

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