Bloomberg and Gates Take on World Smoking

Michael Bloomberg has joined Bill Gates in Times Square this afternoon to announce a $500 million initiative to curb tobacco use in developing countries.

“I’m delighted Bill and Melinda Gates are supporting one of the most important public health efforts of our time,” Bloomberg said in a public statement released prior to the event. The two just walked on stage here at the New York Times center on West 41st Street to discuss the initiative.

This announcement comes on the heels of a World Health Organization report about the widespread use of tobacco, which Bloomberg helped fund. He attended the release of the study back in February.

Politically, appearing with Gates – who founded Microsoft but is now retired – reinforces Bloomberg’s image as an active philanthropist, and makes him look less like a lame duck mayor whose presidential bid didn’t happen, and whose interest in the governor’s race waxes and wanes.

There are 11 television cameras behind me, I just spotted Deputy Mayor Patti Harris, and city Health Commissioner Tom Frieden is making the rounds. The place is full of reporters.