The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

What’s in the Bloomberg, Gates litigation fund?

Most of us have seen the headlines: Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates have teamed up to create a fund to help countries fight challenges by the tobacco industry. What about the details?

According to a press release, the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund will be available for low and middle-income countries to dispute lawsuits filed against them by the tobacco industry using international trade agreements.

Governments being sued must be committed to fighting the industry’s challenge, and to contributing financially. Other criteria for receiving support from the Fund include:

  • The importance of the outcome of the suit to both the country under attack and to other countries considering similar laws;
  • The legal defensibility of the tobacco control measure being challenged;
  • The probability of success from an international trade challenge;
  • The size of the population that will benefit from the law.

“The initiative couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Bontle Mbongwe of FCA member Anti-Tobacco Network Botswana.

Botswana challenged

“For example, in 2014 Botswana introduced a 30 percent tobacco levy, which is in line with the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

"It was publicly and without any shame condemned by the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa (TISA), which claimed ‘… the levy goes against the spirit of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) agreement as it eradicates trade harmonization and hampers the free flow of goods within the SACU community’.”

In addition to financial support, the fund also includes:

  • Technical assistance in drafting legislation and documentation to avoid legal challenges and potential trade disputes from the passage of tobacco-control laws;
  • Support of global best practices in tobacco control and coordinated efforts to document industry wrongdoing;
  • Access to high quality legal assistance;
  • Communications support to educate and inform the public about industry challenges to tobacco control policy and abuse of the trade system;
  • Assistance in accessing knowledgeable tobacco control experts and mobilising support among the global public health community to help countries defend against tobacco industry attacks;
  • Creation of a network of senior lawyers, experienced in trade litigation, to support countries.

Assistance in those other areas is also important, added Bontle. “Botswana can clearly benefit from this fund to fight ‘the Goliath’ called the tobacco industry.”

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will administer the Fund, coordinating funding, technical assistance, media attention, and support from the global public health community.

Bloomberg and Gates expect the Fund to surpass $4 million as more donors join the cause.

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