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Bloomberg Philanthropies & The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Launch Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund

Michael R. Bloomberg & Bill Gates Will Support Countries Facing Tobacco Industry Law Suits

Michael R. Bloomberg & Bill Gates today announced the launch of the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund, 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 1 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:

  • Technical assistance in legislative drafting and documentation to avoid legal challenges and potential trade disputes from the passage of tobacco-control laws
  • Support of global best practices in tobacco control and coordinated efforts to document industry wrongdoing
  • Litigation support to low- and middle-income countries to help defend laws in the form of financial support and access to high quality legal assistance
  • Communications support to educate and inform the public about the industry challenges to tobacco control policy and abuse of the trade system
  • Assistance in accessing knowledgeable tobacco control experts and mobilizing support among the global public health community to help countries defend against tobacco industry litigation
  • Creation of a network of senior lawyers, experienced in trade litigation to support countries

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:

  • Importance of the outcome of the suit to both the specific low- or middle-income country and other countries considering similar laws
  • The legal defensibility of the tobacco control measure being challenged
  • The probability of success from an international trade challenge
  • The size of the population that will benefit from the law
  • The commitment of the government to participating fully in the defense of the measure being challenged, including providing some level of financial support

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.

About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ mission is to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: Public Health, Environment, Education, Government Innovation and the Arts. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $462 million. For more information on the philanthropy, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BloombergDotOrg.

About the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. The organization’s vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids works to save lives by advocating for public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.