Category Archives: Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates announce $4 million fund to help small countries fight Big Tobacco

Gates speaks as Bloomberg listens during a news conference announcing joint efforts to combat the global tobacco epidemic in New York

John Oliver will be glad to hear this. (Thank you Orcas for the tip on this story).

Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg announced this week a $4 million fund to help small countries around the world with their legal battles against Big Tobacco. Gates is contributing through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg through the Bloomberg Foundation.

Oliver has been pounding away on this issue on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.” When small countries attempt to control tobacco branding and tobacco advertising, they get sued by Big Tobacco into submission though world trade agreement laws and courts into dropping their proposals. This has happened in Uruguay, Togo, Ireland and especially Australia (OK, not so small of a country, but it’s been a bloody legal battle there.).

In this quote from a Guardian article about the announcement, Bill Gates said:

“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. 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.”

Added Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization:

“In an ominous trend, in some countries the battle between tobacco and health has moved into the courts. Governments wishing to protect their citizens through larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs or by introducing plain packaging are being intimidated by industry’s threats of lengthy and costly litigation. This is an effort to deprive governments of their sovereign right to legislate in the public interest. We will push back hard.”

I hope $4 million is just a start, because I suspect the international Big Tobacco companies have a vastly bigger legal war chest than that. Anyway, it’s great that people are recognizing the problem that Oliver has exposed on his show.

The tobacco industry has been aggressively trying to expand to international markets, since smoking has dropped so dramatically in the West. The industry particularly salivates over Africa, India and Southeast Asia, where laws and governments are weaker and the smoking rates higher than in the West. (The industry would expand into China bigtime if China allowed it, but the tobacco market there is state-controlled.)

Bloomberg is a noted anti-smoking advocate … you could even call him a zealot (I know some New Yorkers would). As the mayor of New York, he oversaw a number of restrictions on smoking (strict smoking bans not only in bars and restaurants, but in parks) and tax increases for cigarettes. He could be accused of taking his health campaign too far into “nanny state” territory because he also tried to ban large sodas in New York, a move that was ruled illegal by the courts. His heart is in the right place, at least.



Smoking rate in New York City goes up

new york city

Weird story and a little troubling, one that goes against the national trend. Recent data shows that the smoking rate in New York City — yes, rabidly anti-smoking New York City, has actually went up from 2010, and not by a tiny amount Officials are blaming budget cuts to education for the rise in smoking rates.

The smoking rate in New York is still relatively low. According to new data, the rate was 16.1 percent in 2013, up from 14 percent in 2010. The national average is around 18 percent, which is down fairly dramatically from about 10 years ago, when it was about 21 percent (thanks to smoking bans, higher cigarettes taxes, less smoking in movies, more kids buying a clue about cigarettes — and frankly, the rise of vaping I think is becoming a big factor in declining smoking rates.).

What is striking about that increase is New York City has some ridiculously high cigarette taxes (on top of some high New York State cigarette taxes), among the highest in the nation, and a pack of cigarettes there can cost up to $12 to $14.

According to the Daily News story:

The city’s annual tobacco control budget, which pays for anti-smoking programs and marketing campaigns, has been cut almost in half since 2009, to $7.1 million from $13.5 million.

Huh, you’d think with the smoking rate going up, New York City would have more tax revenue to fund tobacco education programs.

New York City had one of the most adamantly anti-smoking mayors in the country, Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg not only signed ordinances banning smoking in bars and restaurants,he raised cigarette taxes in New York and even signed an ordinance outlawing sales to adults under 21.

Here is one of the great New York City funded anti-smoking commercials.


New York City bans cigarette sales to people under 21

teen-smokingOK, I’ve been called a do-gooder more times than I can count, but even for me this is a bit much (thanks to Haruko for the link). Sorry to the rest of my tobacco control brethren whom I support 97 percent of the time, I can’t completely jump on board this one. I have enough of a Libertarian streak that I think this is a little overboard.

The City of New York just imposed a ban on cigarette sales for people under the age of 21.

My problem with this is it likely will do little to cut down on smoking and it just smacks a little too much of “nanny state.” This is the same city under serial do-gooder Michael Bloomberg banned extra large sodas, which didn’t stand up to legal challenges (dumbest law ever. People would just buy two large sodas rather than one jumbo soda and drink the same amount.) Bloomberg was behind this law, too, though he is no longer mayor.

On Raw Story, which is a pretty liberal web site, even most of the supposed “nanny state liberals” are opposed to this. 18-year-olds can get a full driver’s licence, they can join the military, they can vote, they can see R-rated movies by themselves. But, they can’t buy a pack of cigarettes in New York City. Really? I’m old enough to remember that 45 years ago, young adults protested for the right to vote. And after years of protests and the ugliness of the Vietnam War, in which they could not vote but were asked to die for their country, they’re told in NYC they can’t buy a pack of smokes?

Haruko beat me to this point. The only thing 18-20 year olds can’t do is legally buy or use alcohol. The theory behind keeping alcohol illegal for kids under 21 is that teens haven’t developed the common sense yet to know when they are too drunk to drive. Of course, you can say this about ANYONE, but it’s particularly acute for kids 18-21. So there is some common sense to that law. But, I’m not seeing the common sense in the New York City law and I question whether it will accomplish anything. I doubt it will stop 18-21 year-olds from smoking.

The difference between alcohol and cigarettes is cigarettes aren’t an intoxicant, well, not much of one … let’s put it this way, no one ever got killed from someone smoking and driving. And frankly, I don’t see how this is going to save anyone’s life. Very, very few people start smoking between 18-21. Almost everyone starts smoking at 15-18, when cigarettes are already illegal for kids. All this is going to do is encourage adult teens to get their older brothers or friends to buy their cigarettes for them, or they can just drive or take the subway to Hoboken or out to Uniondale or Hempstead or to Yonkers and buy all the cigs they want (or frankly, it will probably encourage more adult teens to use e-cigs. The law also banned e-cig sales to adult teens, but again, they can just take a subway to Long Island to buy their e-cig products.). Again, it’s laws like this that don’t seem to be based on a lot of common sense that give the tobacco control crowd such a bad rep as do-gooders. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone files suit over the law (like people did against New York’s really stupid jumbo soda pop law).

Frankly, I support an approach of continuing to educate kids of the dangers of smoking rather than this law. In the long run, education will make more inroads than laws that adult teens will see as specious and hypocritical.