Bloomberg donates $125m for global war on smoking

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The Independent US

If Michael Bloomberg is to be remembered as the mayor who helped New York City kick its cigarette habit by clearing the smoke from bars and restaurants and putting ever higher taxes on tobacco, he would still not be satisfied. His real ambition is to stop the rest of the world smoking as well.

A former smoker who gave up 30 years ago, Mr Bloomberg has announced plans to donate $125m (£67m) of his fortune to anti-tobacco causes worldwide. The money will be channelled to organisations dedicated to monitoring tobacco use, educating people about the dangers of cigarettes and helping governments introduce regulations and tax policies to discourage smoking.

"There are roughly five million people who are killed by tobacco in this world each year, and unless we take urgent action this century, a billion people will die from smoking," the mayor said. "We know how to save millions of lives, and shame on us if we don't do it."

Mr Bloomberg took a political risk after being beginning his first term in 2002 by banning cigarettes from nearly all public places in New York City. Just four years later, the bans seem barely controversial and have been replicated in many other cities and countries. Officials estimate that there are 200,000 fewer smokers in the city now and that smoking among teenagers is down 36 per cent.

The former newswire tycoon, judged by Forbes magazine to be worth $5.1bn, is a prolific benefactor to education and health causes but he usually keeps quiet about it. His decision to publicise his anti-smoking quest was taken by some as an indication that he may run for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. He denies any suggestion that he may run for national office.

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