Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launch anti-tobacco trade litigation fund

Michael R Bloomberg and Bill Gates will support countries facing tobacco industry law suits

Michael R Bloomberg and Bill Gates announced the launch of the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. The Fund is a new joint effort to combat the tobacco industry’s use of international trade agreements to threaten and prevent countries from passing strong tobacco-control laws. Backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the new support for low- and middle-income countries is the most recent element in a comprehensive strategy to reduce tobacco use globally. Tobacco will claim one billion lives in this century unless urgent action is taken.

"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 Michael R Bloomberg. "We will stand with nations as they work to protect their populations against the deadly health effects of tobacco use."

“Country leaders who are trying to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco should not be deterred by threats of costly legal challenges from huge tobacco companies,” said Bill Gates, Co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Australia won its first case, which sends a strong message. But smaller, developing countries don’t have the same resources. That’s why we are supporting the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund with Bloomberg Philanthropies.”
 
This announcement comes as the tobacco industry ramps up its use of international trade agreements to slow health gains made by countries. For example, the industry is threatening strong tobacco control laws put in place by countries like Uruguay and Australia and by intimidating other countries.
 
Since 2010,Uruguay has been fighting a legal challenge by Philip Morris International against the country’s graphic health warnings on tobacco products with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and international tobacco control advocates. Australia is currently fending off both a World Trade Organization (WTO) challenge and a legal challenge by Philip Morris International against its national law that requires cigarette packs to be sold in drab colors with only the graphic health warnings – a tobacco control policy referred to as “plain packaging”. Numerous additional countries have been threatened by the tobacco industry, a tactic that can lead to delays by governments in passing and implementing the best-practice tobacco control laws called for in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – the world’s first health treaty that has been adopted by more than 180 countries globally.
 
In addition to supporting countries facing suit before international trade tribunals, the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund includes:

Washington, DC–based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will administer the fund, coordinating resources including funding, technical assistance, media attention and support from the global public health community to help countries stand against the tobacco industry when threatened with trade litigation.
 
The investment will be initiated with $4 million dollars, which in tandem with the legal resources and other technical assistance available from Campaign for Tobacco -Free Kids will be used to encourage and assist governments to defend themselves against international trade suits brought by tobacco companies. The initial investment is expected to grow as more donors come on board with additional contributions.
 
“This timely support from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will encourage low- and middle-income countries under attack from tobacco companies to fight back,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids looks forward to leveraging this support to ensure that comprehensive assistance is provided to countries whose sovereign right to protect public health is threatened by tobacco companies inappropriately manipulating trade agreements.”
 
Criteria for receiving support from the Fund include:

The Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use aims to cut global use of tobacco by supporting low- and middle-income countries to implement proven tobacco control policies as outlined in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), such as creating smoke-free public places, banning tobacco advertising, increasing tax on tobacco products and increasing public awareness. Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $600 million since 2007 to combat tobacco use worldwide. More than one billion people are now protected with smoke-free legislation and other effective tobacco control policies.
 
Click here for the event livestream and click here for photos from the award ceremony.