New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a former smoker turned anti-smoking activist, is contributing another $220-million to fight tobacco use worldwide.
The pledge brings Mr. Bloomberg’s total commitment to the anti-smoking cause to more than $600-million, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies. In 2006, he announced a plan to give $125-million over two years to a coalition of groups including the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Two years later, he pledged another $250-million, while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined him with a commitment of $125-million.
The new money will be spent over four years and will focus on low- and middle-income countries—where, the World Health Organization reports, nearly 80 percent of the world’s smokers live.
Mr. Bloomberg has taken a bold approach to fighting tobacco, pushing for efforts to raise taxes on cigarettes and even helping Uruguay mount a legal defense against Philip Morris International, which sued over the country’s anti-smoking laws.
“It’s a miracle,” says Gregory Connolly, a professor of public health at Harvard University. “Most philanthropies are reluctant to take on large corporations.”
Says Nick Guroff, communications director at Corporate Accountability International, an advocacy group that receives Bloomberg money: “In tobacco control, Bloomberg has really shifted the field in ways that Gates has shifted the field of global health.”
Public health is one of five grant-making priorities of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which also makes grants that help groups working in the arts and education as well as those that protect the environment and spur government innovation. Last year, The Chronicle ranked Mr. Bloomberg as the country’s fifth most-generous philanthropist.