Academic Challenges Gates Philanthropy & Tobacco Connection
25 August 2010 at 4:13 pm
An Australian academic and anti-tobacco campaigner has challenged US billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates' commitment to his tobacco control projects.
In an article published in the medical journal, The Lancet, Professor Simon Chapman says Gates' decision to partner with one of the world's richest men, who has links to a tobacco company is "plainly inconsistent" with his stand on funding tobacco-control projects.
Professor Chapman is a Director of Research at the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney.
|Flickr photo by Francis Bourgouin via Creative Commons|
Professor Chapman writes that Bill Gates' move in April to cancel a grant awarded to a Canada-based research group when he discovered its link to a tobacco company is inconsistent with his June announcement to jointly contribute $US50 million vaccination project with Mexico's Carlos Slim Helú.
Professor Chapman says the latest announcement will naturally attract widespread acclaim as an outstanding example of philanthropy. But it also invites important questions about consistency and competing interests.
He says any assessment of Slim’s net contribution to public health must balance the impact of his philanthropic
contributions as well as the indirect health consequences that flow from his wealth generation with a less appreciated source of his wealth – his long-standing majority ownership of the Mexican tobacco company Cigatam, which has since 2007 been 80% owned by Philip Morris.
He says the consequences of Slim's continuing history of high-level regional and global involvement in the tobacco industry are hardly trivial in any assessment of his public health footprint.
Professor Chapman accepts that Gates’ philanthropy is unmatched this century and contributions will have already saved uncounted lives.
He says Gates has recently begun to fund tobacco-control projects in low-income and middle-income nations, joining New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg in injecting an estimated $500 million to try and curb tobacco use in the world’s poorest nations.
In April this year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation withdrew a grant of $5.2 million to Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), after it emerged that the IDRC’s chair, Barbara McDougall, was a very recent board member of Imperial Tobacco Canada.
Professor Chapman describes Gates actions with IDRC as an outstanding example of principled philanthropy and calls on him to make the same move with the Mexican billionaire.