Friday, August 29, 2008

NATIONAL: Gates Funding Olympics Smoking Ban, Raise Worldwide Awareness

(previously published here at

The effect of smoking and tobacco on people's health is well known in America, but the World Health Organization (WHO) still estimates that in the next 20 years, eight million people will die each year, with one billion dying worldwide in the next century. Today, 5.4 million deaths are attributed to smoking each year - more than tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.

With statistics like these in mind, tech billionaire Bill Gates has earmarked $130,000 from his foundation to support a "smoke-free Olympics" through advertisements in an anti-smoking campaign. Beijing has pledged a smoke-free Games, banning smoking from most indoor public spaces, workplaces and spectator areas of open-air stadiums.

The Wednesday announcement came at a press conference where the retired Microsoft co-founder expressed his desire to use funds from his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to spread awareness of the dangerous effects of smoking to people living outside the United States, where this health issue is more prevalent.

China's Ministry of Health cites a one-million-a-year death toll from smoking-related issues, and the WHO says medical costs from smoking also impoverish more than 50 million people.

The funds and campaign in China is part of a larger international initiative by the Gates Foundation to invest $125 million over the next five years to cut rates of tobacco use in China and India, as well as stemming a tobacco epidemic in Africa. The Gates Foundation has collaborated with China's Health Ministry on other public health campaigns, including HIV prevention.

Mr. Gates and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also announced plans to contribute a combined total of $500 million through their respective foundations toward anti-smoking awareness campaigns, to include efforts to raise tobacco taxes and ban smoking in public places. Mr. Bloomberg's foundation will contribute $250 million over four years, on top of a previous pledge of $125 million.

According to the American Lung Association, second-hand smoke can cause or exacerbate serious health problems, such as cancer, respiratory infections and asthma in both children and adults. It causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,700 to 69,000 heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers every year.

Heather J. Chin can be reached at

©The Evening Bulletin 2008

1 comment:

Genny Wright said...

Mr. Gates,
Please come to Missouri. My state is like a foreign country when it comes to caring about our health. A few towns and cities have successfully enacted public smoking bans, but, the state leaders could care less. We had a chance to raise the tobacco tax, but it was voted down. I believe it would have easily passed if it had not been such a huge increase. Please help!