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Over 1 Billion Newly Protected By Effective Tobacco Control Policies

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced that the focused multi-national effort to implement effective tobacco control policies has made dramatic headway since 2008, with 1.1 billion people newly protected by at least one effective tobacco control policy since that time. According to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) today, 55 percent of the world’s population is now covered by at least one of the WHO’s MPOWER suite of six effective anti-tobacco policies. Bloomberg Philanthropies has helped fuel this progress through its six-year $375-million initiative to promote these interventions in 15 low- and middle-income nations that are home to two-thirds of the world’s smokers.

According to The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, the greatest gains were made in warning people about the dangers of tobacco. More than one billion people in 19 countries are covered by laws requiring large, graphic health warnings on packages of tobacco, up from 547 million people in 16 countries in 2008. In addition, groundbreaking data were collected for the first time on the implementation of anti-tobacco mass media campaigns and the results are promising: nearly two billion people live in countries where strong mass media campaigns were aired. More than two-thirds of the countries with a strong campaign were either low- or middle-income.

“Tobacco is the world’s leading agent of death,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “If left unchecked, tobacco use will kill a billion people this century, with more than 80 percent in the world’s developing nations. While the battle is far from over, today’s report shows we’ve made tremendous progress. I look forward to continued success as nations around the world implement proven solutions.”

Other key findings from The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic include:- 739 million people protected by national smoke-free legislation, up from 353 million in 2008, with much of the gain happening in low- and middle-income countries.- 210 million people protected by smoke-free legislation at the sub-national level, a gain of 100 million since 2008.- An additional 115 million people living in countries with the recommended minimum tobacco tax levels, and 26 countries and one territory with taxes constituting the recommended minimum of 75 percent of retail price.- 59 countries representing 3.2 billion people monitoring the tobacco epidemic using best practice methods up from 36 countries in 2008.- Despite the progress being made in countries in levying revenue-generating tobacco taxes, governments still inadequately fund tobacco control activities. Governments collect nearly US $133 billion in tobacco excise revenues, but spend less than US $1 billion on tobacco control, a deficit that is most evident in low- and middle-income countries.

Bloomberg Philanthropies has contributed to this momentum by supporting efforts to implement the MPOWER measures in low- and middle-income countries. The six-year, $375 million program that began in 2007 has provided 329 direct-to-government and non-governmental organization grants in 52 countries; assisted 52 countries with drafting tobacco control laws; trained 7,000 public health professionals in tobacco control; and educated 4,500 journalists on tobacco control issues. Among the 30 countries that have taken action on the MPOWER strategies in 2009 and 2010, more than half are low or middle income.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ partners in the global anti-tobacco initiative include the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the World Health Organization, and the World Lung Foundation and its global partner the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

The MPOWER policies are: Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies, Protect people from tobacco smoke, Offer help to quit tobacco use, Warn about the dangers of tobacco, Enforce bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship and Raise taxes on tobacco.