The Union honours Michael R. Bloomberg’s leadership in global tobacco control as $360 million additional funding is announced

Edinburgh, 5 December 2016 – New funds totalling $360 million have been announced today by Bloomberg Philanthropies, furthering its global initiative to reduce tobacco use in low-and middle-income countries with the largest numbers of smokers. Over the last ten years this strategic programme has changed the trajectory of the global tobacco epidemic by supporting the introduction and implementation of policies proven to reduce tobacco use.

The programme covers more than 110 countries delivering high impact tobacco control interventions. To date, laws and policies proven to reduce tobacco use have been passed in 59 countries, covering almost 3.5 billion people and preventing an estimated 30 million premature deaths. The Union is a partner in the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use and co-manages the Grants Program, which works with governments, civil society and academia to support evidence-based tobacco control measures.  

‘The Union is honoured to be a partner in the Bloomberg Initiative – one of the most powerful public health interventions of our time. This new round of funding will build on the successes of the last ten years and will expand and accelerate the adoption of tobacco control in the countries where this is most urgently needed,’ said José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union. ‘Tobacco use is still the greatest preventable cause of premature death globally, claiming six million lives each year.’

Core tobacco control policies supported by the programme include 100 percent smoke-free indoor public places; bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging; and increasing tobacco taxes. These policies are defined by the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control MPOWER package – a range of six practical measures to help countries implement effective tobacco control. They are proven to help smokers quit, to prevent non-users from taking up the habit, and to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. Implementation of the highest-level MPOWER policies adopted between 2007 to 2010, is predicted to avert nearly 7.5 million smoking attributed deaths by the year 2050.

To date The Union has managed 323 Bloomberg grants in 43 countries. Laws passed as a result of Union support has resulted in: 3.33 billion people in 35 countries being protected by smoke-free laws; higher tobacco taxes in 13 countries, impacting 2.4 billion people; graphic health warnings on tobacco packaging in 25 countries, impacting 2.98 billion people; and tobacco advertising bans in 28 countries, protecting 2.82 billion people. Priority countries for The Union’s tobacco control work include China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh – home to the world’s largest populations of tobacco users.

‘Over the last ten years more has been achieved in tobacco control than even the most optimistic public health advocate could have anticipated, and this is largely thanks to the bold leadership of Michael R. Bloomberg,’ said Dr Ehsan Latif, Director of The Union’s Department of Tobacco Control. ‘With this additional funding countries can continue their life-saving work to reduce tobacco use and the disease and poverty it causes.’

Michael R. Bloomberg first championed tobacco control as mayor of New York; in 2002 he signed the landmark New York City Smoke-Free Air Act banning smoking in bars and restaurants. By 2013, the Bloomberg administration had increased the tax on cigarettes, launched anti-smoking advertising campaigns, and distributed free nicotine patches. The results have been dramatic. There were 400,000 fewer smokers in the city in 2014 than in 2002.

The Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use has several partners, namely The Union, World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins University, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Vital Strategies and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. It focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: public health, environment, education, government innovation and the arts.

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