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Gates Joins Bloomberg's Anti-Tobacco Initiative


Two of the world's richest men are teaming up to fight the tobacco industry. Yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates announced they're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on antismoking campaigns. They especially want to focus on developing countries with high smoking rates, like China and India. NPR's Brenda Wilson reports.

BRENDA WILSON: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's strategy is helping governments and advocacy groups push for smoke-free public spaces, public education campaigns, and taxes on cigarettes that discourage smoking. As Bloomberg pointed out yesterday, the strategy has worked in New York City.


Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): We've cut smoking rates by 21 percent. We've cut teen smoking by more than 50 percent. There are now 300,000 fewer smokers in New York City than there were six years ago.

WILSON: Bloomberg has given $375 million to the effort. Yesterday, billionaire pal Bill Gates chipped in $125 million.

Mr. BILL GATES (Microsoft Founder): This is a very clear cut cause. And once you get a government going on the right policies, if they're raising taxes and being smart about it, it actually is a self-funding thing. Just gets going, the tax money comes in, and it's spent in the right way.

WILSON: But governments have to be persuaded and the question is whether the deep pockets of Bloomberg and Gates are any match for the tobacco industry.

Mayor BLOOMBERG: What we're really trying to do is to leverage our monies and get governments behind it. And in the end the governments are much bigger than the cigarette companies.


WILSON: The industry giant British American Tobacco says it expects more taxes, regulations and restrictions on smoking, but it's also expecting global tobacco sales to remain unchanged for another ten years.

Brenda Wilson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.