Michael Bloomberg says big tobacco preys on the world's poor

Michael Bloomberg laid into the cigarette industry at a conference in London on Monday, saying that tobacco companies “deliberately go out every day and try to kill, for their own profits, the poor around the world.”

The former New York Mayor is an avowed enemy of smoking, famously introducing a smoking ban in bars and restaurants in New York in 2003. The move inspired similar bans around the world, including in Britain.

Speaking at the City Lab London conference on Monday Bloomberg said: “The bad news is this year tobacco companies will sell more cigarettes than ever before in history because they sell them to the poor, the people who don’t understand what it’s doing to their health.”

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report from 2011 found that the poorest people in countries around the world are much more likely to smoke than those better off. In American and the Western Pacific region smoking prevalence in low-income groups was found to be 50% higher than higher income ones.

Bloomberg said: “Someday somebodies going to come along and say to the people who are running these companies, you are killing people. If you kill somebody on the streets with a gun or beat them over the head, we put you in jail or worse.

“These people [tobacco companies] deliberately go out every day and try to kill, for their own profits, the poor around the world. A billion people will still die from smoking this century.”

The same 2011 WHO report found “an increased susceptibility to tobacco-related illnesses… in low-income groups, especially in all-cause mortality, lung diseases and low birth weight.”

Combating smoking is one of several high-profile global campaigns Bloomberg’s charitable foundation, Bloomberg philanthropies, is pursuing around the world. Earlier this year Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation established a multi-million dollar fund to help countries fight legal battles against tobacco companies.

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