When two of the world’s richest and mightest men pledge to destroy an enemy, it is time to pay attention. Bill Gates, the former boss of Microsoft who now devotes all his time to his charitable foundation, travelled this week to New York, the city run by Micheal Bloomberg, to join his fellow billionaire’s campaign to stamp out smoking.
Have the two potentates met thier match? Despite decades of work by health campaigners, more than one billion people still smoke today. Smoking kills up to half of those who fail to quit puffing, reducing their lives by an average of 10 to 15 years. The World Health Organisation, WHO, says more than five million people a year die early from the effects( direct or indirect ) of tobacco. That exceeds the combined toll of Hiv/ ADS. tuberculosis and malaria.
Despite the dismal situation, there are three reasons to give the latest pair of campaigners a slim chance of success: money, methods and motivation. Messrs Gates and Bloomberg vowed to spend a combined total of $500 million on discouraging the weed. Since Bloomberg’s charity had already announced an award of $ 125 million from the software magnate’s philantropic outfit.
How will this cash be spent? In quite innovative ways, and that is a second reason for optimism. Hitherto, most anti-smoking funds have been channelled through a few large bureaucracies. But Bloomberg’s charity wants to let a thousand flowers bloom: in other words, to lend a hand to many initiatives, both public and private, to see what works. There will be a competitive grant scheme for poor countries where the tobacco habit is spreading.
The very fact that two giants are teaming up is a landmark in American philanthropy comparable to Warren Buffett’s decision, two years age, to put his fortunate at the disposal of Gates’s foundation. AS part of their joint commitment, Gates is giving some of his $125 million directly to Bloomberg’s charity; the rest will go to carefully monitored projects in India. China and other places where the number of smokers is rising relentlessly.
Then there is motivation. There are other big players in this cause, and that should induce every new entrant to try bringing something fresh to the party. Earlier this year the WHO started campaign against tobaco known as MPower.