Multibillionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg have launched a worldwide anti-smoking campaign, fuelled with $500 million of their money.
Microsoft founder Gates told a press conference on he will donate $125 million toward the campaign, while New York Mayor Bloomberg said he would chip in with $250 million, on top of the $125 million he already committed in 2005.
"Our goal is to support and complement the Bloomberg initiative," Gates said.
The campaign will back strategies to raise taxes on tobacco products, change the image of smoking in society, protect non-smokers from second-hand tobacco smoke and help smokers give up their habit.
There are some results already: Egypt recently raised sharply its taxes on tobacco products, the Philippines banned all tobacco media advertising, while in Brazil and other countries tobacco packaging bears graphic images to discourage sales.
Two of the world's wealthiest people, Bloomberg (with $16 billion to his name) and Gates ($58 billion) have for years donated part of their earnings to philanthropic enterprises.
They told reporters that one billion people will die from tobacco-related diseases during this century unless something is done to reduce smoking, which they called an "epidemic."
A world without tobacco, said Bloomberg, "is a world in which people live longer and have happier lives."
Currently one in four adults in the world is a smoker, or about one billion people approximately.