No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

OK, let me state my biases right up front; I am a fan of Michael Bloomberg.

In fact, if he had been a candidate for President, it would have been quite an easy choice for me to vote for him.

We are in agreement on several key issues – gun control, sugary drinks, education, and smoking.

And it is the smoking issue that I want to take a look at.

The Wall Street Journal had a story today about Bloomberg’s decision to commit $360 million to be used between 2017 and 2022 to help raise tobacco taxes, implement smoke-free laws and pursue other strategies to curb tobacco use in low- and middle-income countries.

Curbing tobacco use is a signature cause for Mr. Bloomberg, whose New York City mayoral administration famously instituted smoking bans, graphic ad campaigns, sharp tax increases and other measures to get people in New York City to kick the habit—with effect, as smoking rates fell significantly during his tenure.

I would hope there are thousands of grateful people living in New York City who needed such a push to stop such an unhealthy habit, and thousands more nonsmokers grateful for the cleaner air.

So I was excited to see his plan to lower smoking rates around the world, but it seems I am in the minority with such a belief, at least judging by the comments left on the article in the WSJ.

There are 38 comments attached to the article, and only 2 or 3 seemed to be in favor of such a move; the remaining comments were decidedly against Bloomberg’s decision.

Some of the negative comments could be dismissed out of hand (at least in my opinion). Here are a few examples:

The fact that Bloomberg wants in on this effort to curb smoking almost makes me want to cheer on Big Tobacco…That said please pass the salt, and I want my Big Gulp and my gun too. 

Tobacco offers benefits in both the mental and physical realms.  It imparts a tranquility of mind while stimulating mental processes, and reduces perception of hunger, thirst, and pain or discomfort while simultaneously providing stimulus for increased blood circulation.

Bloomberg is worth 17 billion. Why didn’t he commit 16 billion to this project?

I’ve been smoking for 80 years and I’m not planning to quit.

Bloomberg is an animal who is all about consolidating power in his hands.

I guess such comments are just proof that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

I admire Bloomberg’s many initiatives. Here is an individual who has amassed a fortune, making him one of the wealthiest people in the world. There’s lots of things he could be doing with that money such as cruising around the world in a half-billion dollar yacht or buying a professional sports teams and hanging out in the locker room with multi-millionaire athletes.

But Bloomberg has opted to spend a good deal of his money on causes that he believes make the world a better place, such as education and health care. He is a well-known philanthropist and has signed the The Giving Pledge; a campaign to persuade billionaires to give at least half of their fortunes to charity.

So I find it incredible that so many people would criticize his desire to cut smoking around the world. From my perspective, I don’t see how this benefits Bloomberg at all, except perhaps for the initial publicity, which will soon fade away. To me, that’s the definition of altruism (from Google: the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others).

Rather than criticize such actions, I think we should be encouraging more people to act in such a way.

One of the most common criticisms of such actions is “why does Bloomberg (or whomever) get to decide how people spend their money and live their lives?”

My response is that it’s not Bloomberg and other concerned individuals that decide such things just based on their own personal beliefs; from what I can tell, such decisions are backed by data.

There’s enormous amounts of data on the negative effects of smoking and too much sugar, and the dangers of gun ownership. At what point does the evidence become so overwhelming that it’s time to act on it?

I think that’s where we are now; it’s time to take action on such unhealthy behaviors (again, I’m not the one calling them unhealthy behaviors, it’s the data that says so).

And if such action requires government intervention, or the support of people like Bloomberg, that’s fine with me.

I don’t call that a nanny state, I call it a government that cares about the health and well-being of its citizens.

So bravo, Michael Bloomberg, and thank you for what you are doing to make a the world a better place.