Philanthropist Michael Bloomberg said yesterday he will spend US$20 million to launch a watchdog to detect and expose deceptive practices by the tobacco industry.

The monitor, to be called Stopping Tobacco Organizations and Products (STOP), will seek to counter the industry’s influence by publishing reports detailing pro-smoking activities and tactics.

It will also support non-profit organizations and government to resist interference from the tobacco industry.

“Over the last decade tobacco control measures have saved nearly 35 million lives, but as more cities and countries take action, the tobacco industry is pushing to find new users, particularly among young people,” said Bloomberg, an ambassador for the World Health Organization on noncommunicable diseases.

“We cannot stand by as the industry misleads the public in an effort to get more people hooked on its products — and this global watchdog will help us hold the industry accountable,” he said.

Bloomberg’s charitable giving organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, accuses the tobacco industry of seeking to legitimize itself in the eyes of policy makers, of marketing to children, and pushing cigarette alternatives for which the health case remains inconclusive.

Bloomberg, who made his fortune selling financial data, has given over US$1 billion since 2007 to curb global tobacco use, which claims nearly 7 million lives every year.

Research on the tobacco industry, published in peer-reviewed journals, has shown a strategy to defend the industry against health campaigners.

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