Can the developing world quit smoking? Find out how Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are teaming up to help fight Big Tobacco worldwide! 

A new global fund started by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation may be the next step toward a smoke-free world. The New York Times reports that the fund will help developing countries fight the tobacco industry’s heavyweight legal tactics, clearing the way for the kinds of smoking laws that have cleared the air and decreased smoking rates in wealthier countries in recent years.

In developed nations like the United States, modern smoking laws have pushed cigarettes out of restaurants, bars, hotels, and even many parks and residential buildings. But while smoking rates are declining on average worldwide, developing countries have suffered the opposite effect as tobacco companies fight to hold onto markets where regulations are weaker. According to the UN, tobacco consumption more than doubled in the developing world between 1970 and 2000. The increase is most significant in China, but tobacco has also taken hold in Africa, where smoking rates used to be remarkably low. The vast majority of smokers, over three-quarters, now live in the developing world.

But help is on the way. The Bloomberg and Gates fund will help poorer countries that couldn’t otherwise afford to fight the legal challenges and intimidation tactics that tobacco companies have used to stop smoking laws. Though the fund is still modest, with only two charities providing a total of $4 million, Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael R. Bloomberg expects more donors to join the effort. Furthermore, he hopes the fund’s existence will empower developing countries to take a stand. “The fact that there is a fund dedicated to taking on tobacco companies in court sends a message that they’re not going to get a free ride,” Bloomberg said. The fund will also serve to help companies draft stronger tobacco laws that will stand up better to challenges from the tobacco industry. According to Bloomberg, some law firms have already shown interest in helping the cause.

In countries like the United States that have benefited from the last couple of decades of smoking laws, it’s hard to imagine going to back to a world where cigarette ads and secondhand smoke were unavoidable. Perhaps with a little help, poorer countries can achieve the public health and wellness advantages that come when governments are able to stand up to Big Tobacco.

Have smoking laws changed your world for the better? Do you think tobacco regulation should be more or less strict where you live? Let us know in the comments below!

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