The John Tung Foundation, the country's largest anti-smoking advocacy group, said yesterday that it would seek aid from billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to help finance a regional anti-smoking conference to be held in Taipei next year.
The foundation made the statement after Bloomberg, a former smoker, announced a day earlier that he would pour US$125 million of his own money into a worldwide campaign against smoking.
Bloomberg's fortune is estimated at US$5.1 billion, making him the 40th richest American, according to Forbes magazine.
He built his wealth after founding the financial information company that bears his name, and he gives away millions of dollars each year to benefit medical research, arts groups and education, among other causes.
Lin Ching-li (林清麗), a division chief at the John Tung Foundation, said the foundation had approached three global charitable organizations, including the Rockefeller Foundation, to ask them to help finance an annual conference of the Asia-Pacific Association for the Control of Tobacco to be hosted by the foundation in Taipei in October next year. All of them have rejected the foundation's application.
"Bloomberg's latest announcement is a welcome fillip to us. We'll apply for financial aid from the New York mayor's foundation," Lin said.
According to Lin, 5 million people around the world die from smoking-related diseases every year, outnumbering deaths from accidents, suicide or cancers.
Taiwan now has about 4.9 million smokers and an estimated 19,000 people die from smoking-related diseases or second-hand smoke each year, Lin said, adding that the annual medical and economic expenses from those diseases far exceed NT$50 billion (US$1.53 billion).