Media tycoon Mike Bloomberg takes another swing at Big Tobacco
Media tycoon Michael Bloomberg is stepping his campaign against Big Tobacco.
The former New York mayor announced Wednesday that he is committing $20 million to form a new watchdog organization that will monitor tobacco companies' practices.
"Over the last decade tobacco control measures have saved nearly 35 million lives, but as more cities and countries take action, the tobacco industry is pushing to find new users, particularly among young people," Bloomberg said in a statement. "We cannot stand by as the industry misleads the public in an effort to get more people hooked on its products -- and this global watchdog will help us hold the industry accountable."
Dubbed Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), the group aims to create a global monitoring system for tracking the industry's tactics, and will also advise countries and non-profit groups on how to combat the cigarette companies' influence.
Bloomberg's philanthropies have spent $1 billion since 2007 to combat tobacco use,
Among the concerns of anti-tobacco activists like Bloomberg is the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes, which vaporize tobacco instead of combusting it. A study released last year by the U.S. Surgeon General found that young people's use of e-cigarettes surged 900 percent from 2011 to 2015. Worldwide e-cigarette sales are expected to reach $27.7 billion by 2022, a compound annual growth rate of 16.6 percent, according to Wells Fargo (WFC).
The tobacco industry has argued that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking conventional cigarettes. Health experts counter that the evidence to back such claims is inconclusive at best.
The tobacco industry, which for decades denied any link between smoking and health problems, seeks to influence tobacco policy through a non-profit known as the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. According to the organization's website, Philip Morris International (PM) will provide the group $80 million in funding annually for the next 12 years. The foundation also expects to receive funding from other sources.
Philip Morris, which traces its roots to a 19th century London tobacconist's shop, said earlier this year that it planned to quit selling conventional cigarettes in the U.K. at an unspecified future date. Critics, including such as the American Lung Association, denounced the company's announcement as a publicity stunt.
Bloomberg has funneled tens of millions of dollars to pet causes, including the environment, health and gun control. In 2014, he contributed $50 million to a new group formed to public officials accountable for their stance on gun-related issues.
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