18, Aug 2023
Bloomberg’s global crusade against Safer Nicotine Alternatives is impacting LMICs significantly

Bengaluru 18th July 2023 : A total of INR 55,449 crore in foreign funding has been received by Indian NGOs in the past three years. While many NGO are important to support the government’s efforts towards public good, it is not a hidden fact that many work with a larger political agenda. These NGOs are guided by both domestic and international forces, which include the donor agencies and their think-tanks to push for a policy agenda in LMICs that may not be suitable for the masses.

For instance, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has been running multi-million-dollar campaigns to try to shape the lives of ordinary consumers. What began as a campaign on Big Gulps in New York City has ballooned into a massively funded operation that uses grants and NGO funding on many tobacco issues, mostly on outlawing safer alternatives.

His efforts have quickly scaled to the level of the World Health Organization, including funding US anti-tobacco groups in the millions to even go so far to completely outlaw nicotine alternatives in developing countries across Latin America, Asia, and more. While nations on these continents typically have larger smoking populations than in the US and Europe, they have thus far been deprived of the life-saving nicotine alternatives that would serve as a less harmful switch away from traditional smoking.

In the name of “halting tobacco,” Bloomberg and the organizations he funds have actively sought to stop the tobacco harm reduction movement by miscasting certain alternatives as “just as bad” as combustible tobacco. Even though health agencies in nations such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Sweden, Japan and even Canada actively recommend some form of alternatives to get smokers to quit, this option is kept off the table in developing nations where Bloomberg built an influence.

In February of this year, Bloomberg’s commitment to severely restrict harm reduction increased significantly to nearly $420 million, hoping to drive a larger global campaign in 110 countries around the world to cut off citizens from nicotine alternatives that are less harmful. Over $280 million of that money will focus on developing countries, offering grants to political groups, health agencies, and politicians to implement a zero-tolerance nicotine agenda.

Bloomberg’s approach, and by extension the dozens of health and anti-tobacco groups he funds, are not in denial of the real scientific evidence on tobacco harm reduction. Rather than endorse the market-derived alternatives that have been successful in getting adult smokers to quit. They have created a false equivalence between the safer alternatives and a cigarette.

That not only harms public health but continues to fester a narrative of misinformation that has captured many public health researchers and government agencies. We know this all too well from our cross-national survey of health practitioners in Europe, in which many doctors were simply unaware of the growing category of less harmful nicotine alternatives.

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