Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mpower: Gates and Bloomberg announce anti-smoking initiative

There was an historic meeting in New York today of Bill Gates and Mayor Bloomberg to announce a major anti-smoking campaign to further the work that Mayor Bloomberg has already initiated in New York City banning public smoking in bars and restaurants.

Further anecdotal evidence of smoking around the world in the article was provided by Dr. Richard Peto, who worked for many years in the 1980s and 1990s with Sir Richard Doll. William Richard Shaboe Doll was the late founder of the modern anti-smoking movement who provided medical evidence linking smoking with lung cancer and won many distinguished awards. They also backed studies that found that even second-hand smoke can be almost as dangerous and cancer-causing.

I know this well as I had a job in their office in England in 1980, knew them both and became very familiar with their work. Dr. Peto brings his mathematical knowledge to epidemiology. Though not a ground-breaking high-flying mathematician (Peto, now Sir Richard, was not the only mathematician originally invited to apply for a position helping Sir Richard Doll who at one time was an aspiring mathematician), Peto leveraged his knowledge of mathematics into a high-profile partnership (and warm, private friendship) with the former Regius Professor of Medicine, a consultant to the Queen of England and a knighthood.

Anyway, according to this article, these two titans of American industry, Bill Gates and Mayor Bloomberg, have their work cut out for them, with so many foreign countries sponsoring agricultural practices encouraging the farming of tobacco. Seems to me their energy and money should be spent persuading these governments to change their ways. Company advertising can certainly shift and encourage consumer demand. Governments financially either encourage or discourage agricultural practices relating to consumer supply and demand. Business can assist with sophisticated alternative advertising techniques so that demand is not created where it does not already exist.

From the New York Times article:

The newly created Mpower campaign -
will urge governments to sharply raise tobacco taxes, prohibit smoking in public places, outlaw advertising to children and cigarette giveaways, start antismoking advertising campaigns and offer people
nicotine patches or other help quitting. Health officials, consumer advocates, journalists, tax officers and others from third world countries will be brought to the United States for workshops on topics like lobbying, public service advertising, catching cigarette smugglers and running telephone help lines for smokers wanting to quit. A list of grants is at

Perhaps farmers in foreign countries where tobacco is widely grown could have "tobacco conversations" with their politicians. All should learn that tobacco will ruin their health if they don't already know it. Then farmers should tell their politicians that they will not grow tobacco. Healthy alternative crops can be found as we have done here in America. These foreign farmers need to assert themselves and offer viable alternatives to their governments.

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