Armando Peruga, Coordinator, Tobacco Free Initiative, World Health Organization

Preventing the implementation of 100% smoke-free policies in the hospitality has always been important for the tobacco industry anywhere in the world. However, avoiding these policies in Spain was vital to their interests. The industry considered Spain a benevolent territory from which to “export” a model that would serve their interests. The industry documents indicate that the socializing role of bars and restaurants, its intensive use by the population and the diversity of supply and type of users turned Spain into a platform from which to create a domino effect. Long years of tobacco industry interference in Spain gave birth to the so-called Spanish model to block 100% smoke-free policies in the hospitality sector embodied in the Law 28/2005.

The gestation the “Spanish model” shows that the industry interferes in 5 different domains to inhibit the implementation of evidence-based tobacco control policies. In the political domain the industry maneuvers to hijack the political and legislative process. In the economic sphere it exaggerates the contribution of the industry and its products to the economy. In the social domain it fabricates support through front groups. In the media field the industry tries to manipulate public opinion and in the scientific domain it discredits proven science regarding the dangers of exposure to second hand smoke. The law 28/2005 lasted six years until another was passed protecting all workers and users of the hospitality sector from exposure to second hand smoke. During that period the tobacco industry “exported” actively the Spanish model legislation to several countries. For example, Chile, Denmark, Portugal and Romania passed legislation similar to the Spanish model. Other countries such as Guatemala resisted but it was documented that the industry pressured the government.

The replacement of the law 28/2005 by a statute creating 100% smoke free environments consistent with the requirements of the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control also shows lessons learnt about the steps needed to implement effective public health policies. The rich experience that led to the substantial change of policy (which has not yet been fully documented) indicates that political will was generated to change and that both parliament and civil society in Spain were able to create the partnerships necessary to counteract the influence tobacco industry in the 5 areas described above to first pass and then successfully implement (through regional governments) the new law.

The Spanish experience also teaches that the tobacco industry and those working to further their interests do not give up in their attempts to restore the old policies that only favor their particular interests. The recent demand of a foreign employer to repeal the existing law on protection from SHS to do business in Spain opens a dangerous path that requests the population to take on additional health sacrifices in exchange for work. It is also worth pointing out that countries like Spain are subject to the provisions of international law voluntarily adopted such as the WHO FCTC that not only requires workplaces and indoor public to be completely free of smoke but requires governments to protect public health policies with respect to tobacco control from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.