Since 2008, the foundation has committed US$134 million to fund projects and partnerships in Africa and Asia that address the tobacco epidemic. One of our largest investments is in the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, which has been at the forefront of the global effort to fight tobacco use. In 2008, the foundation and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a joint commitment of US$375 million to the initiative.
As incomes rise for a growing African population, tobacco use could double in the coming years if strong tobacco control measures are not implemented. Although most governments in Africa have committed to the FCTC, tobacco control remains a lower priority than other health challenges and governments often lack data on tobacco-related health issues. Given that the tobacco epidemic in Africa is at a relatively early stage, now is a critical time to invest in campaigns and research to support policies that can prevent a large-scale epidemic.
We support two resource centers in Africa: the Centre for Tobacco Control in Africa, sponsored by WHO, and the African Tobacco Control Consortium, sponsored by the American Cancer Society (ACS). These centers work with a range of regional and country partners, including governments and civil society organizations, to offer technical assistance, resources, and guidance in implementing tobacco control interventions in Africa. In addition, they serve as a model of cross-sector collaboration in the region. We also support economists at WHO and ACS who work with governments, advocates, and African researchers on the economics of tobacco control.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco. An estimated 27 percent of the population—more than 350 million people—are smokers, and 1 million Chinese die of tobacco-related illnesses each year. As many as 100 million Chinese men currently under the age of 30 will die from causes related to tobacco use.
We are working with the Red Cross Society of China to build support for tobacco control among China’s leadership and encourage a shift in attitudes so both smokers and nonsmokers perceive tobacco use as undesirable and unacceptable. Through a partnership with the Baidu Charitable Foundation, we are working to highlight the risks of secondhand smoke. According to the 2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, less than one-fourth of Chinese adults believe that secondhand smoke can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and cancer. We also work with Emory University and other partners and donors on city-level policy change and other initiatives in China.
In Southeast Asia, we are funding the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, which encourages regional collaboration, advocates for policy change, and provides technical assistance to tobacco control efforts in Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The project aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of tobacco taxes and graphic warnings on cigarette packaging; this, in turn, can build support for more expansive policy change.
Without accurate information on the size and nature of the challenges and successes in tobacco control, governments in developing countries are understandably reluctant to spend more money to address tobacco use and have limited ability to draft effective policies. In addition, models of tobacco control that have been used successfully in Western countries are not always readily accepted or equally effective in other countries. Tobacco control advocates need local information and data to support the case they present to governments—and to counter the tobacco industry’s promotional campaigns. Countries also need new and updated economic analyses on tax policy, tobacco consumption, and the burden of tobacco-related disease.
In partnership with the Bloomberg Initiative, we support a range of efforts to provide advocates and policymakers with the evidence they need to promote change in government policies. These include global adult and youth tobacco surveys, a series of country-specific papers detailing the economic impact of tobacco and tobacco taxation, and research on tobacco industry marketing strategies, cigarette smuggling, and tobacco policy effectiveness. We also provide advocates with grants for essential research, allowing them to respond quickly and effectively to emerging needs.