16 August 2006

To get the rest of the world to stop smoking

If Michael Bloomberg is to be remembered as the mayor who helped New York City kick its cigarette habit by clearing the smoke from bars and restaurants and sticking ever higher taxes on tobacco, he would still not be satisfied. His real ambition, he now reveals, is to get the rest of the world to stop smoking as well. A former smoker who gave up 30 years ago, Mr. Bloomberg has announced plans to donate US$125 million of his personal fortune to anti-tobacco causes worldwide.

"There are roughly 5 million people who are killed by tobacco in this world each year, and, unless we take urgent action this century, a billion people will die from smoking," the Mayor declared. "We know how to save millions of lives, and shame on us if we don't do it." Mr. Bloomberg took a political risk after being beginning his first term in 2002 by ejecting cigarettes from nearly all public places in New York City. Just four years later, the bans seem barely controversial and have been replicated in many other cities and countries. Officials estimate that there are 200,000 fewer smokers in the city now and that smoking among teenagers is down about 36 per cent.

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