Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have started a joint fund to help poor countries fight tobacco-industry challenges to their smoking laws, reports The New York Times. The legal fund will launch with $4 million from the two foundations but is expected to grow as more donors join the effort, Michael Bloomberg told reporters Wednesday.
The effort will also help countries draft tobacco laws that can withstand court challenges and establish a network of lawyers with experience in trade litigation. Health experts say tobacco firms are adopting a legal strategy to maintain access to fast-growing markets in the developing world as smoking rates decline in richer countries. "The fact that there is a fund dedicated to taking on the tobacco companies in court sends a message that they are not going to get a free ride," Mr. Bloomberg said.