- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I am delighted to learn that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are combining in an effort to spend $500 million on anti-smoking programs in developing nations (“Gates, Bloomberg pool riches to fight smoking,” Web, News, Wednesday).

Tobacco use is an international epidemic that is directly responsible for the deaths of millions of individuals each year. What is particularly vexing is that it is a wholly preventable phenomenon if one can reach potential smokers before they make the decision to become addicts, which the vast majority of smokers do before reaching the age of majority, seduced by a tobacco industry that to some extent continues to succeed in portraying smoking as glamorous and hip.

As the knowledge we Americans have about the evils of tobacco usage has increased, the tobacco companies have been untroubled about their future prospects to hook and kill potential addicts, certain that they will be able to successfully export their lethal product to less sophisticated countries that do not provide their people with the benefit of tobacco education.

If millions of citizens of the world were being killed by bubonic plague, there would be an uprising, demands for a cure. Smoking, which so often leads to grave illness and an agonizing death, is within our power to significantly diminish if one is granted the gift of education. Melinda and Bill Gates and Mr. Bloomberg’s contributions are reflective of selfless individuals of valor and distinction. They offer the gift of life.

I do not expect President Bush and his tobacco-friendly administration to praise the efforts of the Gateses and Mr. Bloomberg. This president greeted his surgeon general’s June 2006 report on the menace of second-hand smoke by showing him the door and throwing the report in the trash. Thoughtful and caring individuals, however, owe a great debt of gratitude to this most generous and honorable trio.

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

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